This is an interview with Sharlean Grinups, Health and Physical Education Department Chair and Wellness Liaison at Westfield High School. Westfield High School has applied for and received a Healthy Kids grant from the Community Foundation every year for the past three years.

shoesThe Community Foundation for Northern Virginia has been providing Healthy Kids Grants for 6 years.  In collaboration with the J.O.Y. Charitable Fund, a donor advised fund with the Community Foundation, grants are made each year to individual public schools in Northern Virginia that implement a program or strategy to encourage better nutrition or more activity among their student body during the school year.

Examples of school based initiatives the grants could help support include, but are not limited to:
  • Starting an after school activity club that promotes physical fitness.
  • Starting a walking club for students and teachers.
  • Creating and planting a vegetable garden on school grounds.
  • Developing a school health advisory council comprised of students, parents, teachers, administrators, other school staff and community representatives.
  • Developing and sharing calorie counts and nutritional information for all school breakfasts and lunches so students can make healthy choices.
Three years ago, Westfield High School applied for and received their first Healthy Kids grant from the Community Foundation. “We are so thankful for the grants!” said Sharlean Grinups, Health and Physical Education Department Chair and Wellness Liaison at Westfield High School. Westfield High School has applied for and received a Healthy Kids grant from the Community Foundation every year for the past three years.

shoesThe grants Westfield High School received were immediately put to good use. Ms. Grinups leads an elective “Girls Only Fitness” class for approximately 60 female students each semester.  Although the girls were excited about participating in the class and learning about health and fitness, Ms. Grinups noticed that most of the girls did not have the proper athletic shoes. “Some of the girls were wearing shoes with holes in them, some of the shoes were three years old!” she said. With money from the grant in-hand, Ms. Grinups worked with Dick’s Sporting Goods to purchase brand new athletic shoes for the girls. A Dick’s Sporting Goods employee came to the school to measure all of the girl’s shoe size. “Some of the girls had no idea what shoe size they needed,” said Ms. Grinups. She worked with Dick’s Sporting Goods to select an athletic shoe that the girls would like, and an order of 60 pairs of identical shoes was placed. “Receiving a new pair of shoes made me feel special and matching with everyone felt like a team,” said student Isela.

“The Healthy Kids grant from the Community Foundation has really made a difference in the lives of these girls. You can see it when their lace up their new athletic shoes. They feel part of a team, and their increased self-confidence really shows. Putting on a new pair of shoes is like a badge of honor for the girls in this program,” said Ms. Grinups. 
“I enjoyed getting new sneakers.  It helped me save more money for my family and me, so it made me feel good that someone cares for us,” said student Jessica. “The shoes are good for this class because they provide a sense of unity among the girls,” said student Zoe.
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The Girls Only Fitness class that Grinpus leads is focused on doing aerobic exercise as a group, and teaching strength techniques, healthy living habits, and self defense. “I teach the girls that they can get a good workout at home or outside without having to pay for a gym membership. The girls also receive an intro to yoga, pilates, zoomba, dance, and light weightlifting, so they are exposed to many different sports during the program. The girls are excited to participate, and the fact that the Community Foundation was willing to invest in their need for athletic shoes is tremendously meaningful,” said Ms. Grinups.

Not only have the new shoes made a positive impact on the girls, but Sharlean states that the overall health of the girls is improving. “We measure their height and weight before and after the program, and we see a positive change in their size as well as their overall attitude,” said Ms. Grinups. “I can’t thank the Community Foundation enough for selecting Westfield High School to be a recipient of the Healthy Kids Grants for the past three years!”