After successfully completing several AgriLife Extension wellness programs through a partnership with the Harrison County Extension Agency, Sam Houston Elementary STEM Academy has been declared the winner of the prestigious Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Healthy Texas Recognized School Award.

The aim of the initiative is to support and encourage healthy lifestyles through education and hands-on learning opportunities. Throughout the duration of this school year, the school took on challenges, led by Harrison County extension agents Matt Garrett and Louraiseal McDonald, in order to earn its Healthy Texas Recognized School Award status.

School counselor Lula Waskom expressed how proud the school is to have participated in this venture.

“Sam Houston has incredible students, staff and parents who all assisted in this endeavor,” said Waskom. “I am honored to be a part of such an achievement.”

“Marshall ISD, itself, is always in search of excellence,” she said.

To reach the objective, a total of 87 fourth-graders participated in the extension’s “Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go!” youth garden program, implemented by the local agents. Additionally, the entire student body, consisting of 527 students participated in the “Walk Across Texas” program, logging more than 5,000 miles. Teachers also joined in the goal with more than 60 of them successfully accomplishing the “Fresh Start to a Healthier You” nutrition four-week series.

“‘Learn, Grow, Eat, Go!’ is a 20-lesson series that is hands-on, multi-faceted and academically rich,” explained McDonald. “It focuses on nutrition, garden science, physical activity, food preparation and fresh vegetable tastings to improve the health and wellness of children, families and the school community. The integration of science, math, social studies, health and language arts helps youth to benefit from the program in various areas.

“Family engagement and teacher resources were provided to reinforce educational information such as parent newsletter, recipe demonstration videos and garden journals,” she said.

McDonald said this program also aligns with the Texas Essential Knowledge of Skills (TEKS), which are the state standards in education.

With the Walk Across Texas program, students took on the challenge to eat right and exercise throughout the extent of the eight-week physical activity program, with the ultimate goal to adopt a healthy regime and make physical activity a part of their regular routine.

“The goal is to accumulate 832 miles, which is the number of miles from East Texas to West Texas,” said McDonald.

And as part of the team effort to become a “Healthy Texas Recognized School,” the teachers joined in the goal by participating in the “Fresh Start to a Healthier You” program. McDonald noted that the four-lesson series focuses on increasing fruit and vegetable intake, adopting a frequent workout routine and selecting and purchasing nourishing food items — all on a budget.

McDonald thanked all sponsoring entities who helped make the “Healthy Texas Recognized School” mission possible.

“A huge thank you goes to the Harrison Leadership Advisory Board, Harrison Family & Community Health Committee, Harrison Master Wellness Volunteers and Harrison Master Gardeners,” said McDonald. “The generous volunteers not only volunteered their precious time but also shared their gardening and nutrition knowledge.”

McDonald also expressed gratitude to Sam Houston principal Jessica Johnson; school counselor Lula Waskom; and Communities in School site coordinator Charizma Taylor.

“We truly appreciate them for allowing us to implement these programs with the students and the teachers,” said McDonald. “They also ensured all goals were accomplished. We look forward to working with everyone in the future.”

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