Health and Wellness Initiative

 The Stapleton Foundation Awards More Than $8000 in School Wellness Grants

With a focus on elementary, middle, and high schools within the be well Zone, the Stapleton Foundation’s be well Health and Wellness Initiative has been busy expanding its Healthy Schools Mini Grant Program to help eager students, staff and families across the community. The mini-grant program seeks to provide funds, resources, and technical assistance to support sustainable changes uniquely defined for schools in Northeast Denver and Northwest Aurora. As the 2016-2017 school year closes, six schools received more than $8,000 for projects and programs focused on creating a healthier community -  both in and out of school.

Schools were selected to receive the monetary grants from be well after submitting proposals that outlined their plan for the funding’s use. While the planned initiatives varied, the School Wellness Teams that champion the grant proposals typically take action by pinpointing health issues in their environment. Hence, the teams create solutions through programming, system and built environment changes, and community engagement.

“Year-over-year it’s amazing what the school communities seek to accomplish in the name of healthy living,” said be well Health and Wellness Initiative Youth Project Manager Emily Shore. “We view the grants we are able to deliver as down payments on the positive choices we hope all students will make when it comes to health. The example our Youth Block Captains and School Wellness Teams set certainly creates a solid foundation for future growth in the health and wellness arena. We could not be more proud to support the wellness goals they set.”  

Examples of some of the initiatives funded include:

  • Denver School of the Arts implementation of the student-led social-emotional program, called Sources of Strength. Supporting good mental health, students created and launched school-wide campaigns to cope and overcome stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Isabella Bird Community School built a photo booth to streamline birthday celebrations throughout the school in a manner that is positive for all students. Their initiative helped eliminate hardships for low-income families and promoted more healthful foods options.
  • Venture Prep High School created a portable ropes course with various teambuilding activity stations. Their project included an activity guidebook for curriculum use by teachers to increase outdoor time among the high school’s students.
  • Ashley Elementary School advanced its outdoor learning garden and year-round summer garden club by installing an automatic sprinkler system, distributing reusable garden bags, and creating garden signs.
  • Montview Elementary School produced materials for its Peace Corners Program. They designated Peace Corners in 21 classrooms. Each was outfitted with various calming tools so that students learn a safe method of de-escalation, without being removed from the classroom setting.
  • Fletcher Elementary School developed a Kids CrossFit Program available to students, staff and families before school on three mornings per week.

In previous years, the be well Healthy Schools Mini Grant promoted pedestrian safety by encouraging parents to walk to school with their children. Other examples of grant funded wellness programming, built environment or system changes include Community gardens, brain breaks, bike safety, healthy school snacks, Gaga pits, etc.

The work being done on all fronts is certainly getting noticed. Isabella Bird Community School, McAuliffe International School, Denver School of the Arts, and Northfield High School were named 2017 Healthy School Champions and received the $500 Excellence Award. The 2017 Healthy School Champion designation recognizes their efforts to create healthy environments and cultivate student learning.  Schools are awarded based on their implementation of best practices in school health through an assessment tool called Smart Source, a narrative outlining their work, and letters of support.  This year 46 schools from across the city/state were recognized with the award.

Youth Block Captains/Youth Council - Registrations Now Being Accepted! 

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Youth in the be well Block Captain Program promote healthy living in the be well Zone and abroad among family, friends, peers and neighbors through outreach with schools, churches, sports teams and other youth-oriented community organizations. All youth block captains complete a healthy living training, equipping them with new attitudes, skills, and knowledge as it relates to health and wellness and the civic engagement process.

The be well Youth Block Captain training builds the capacity of youth to serve on the be well Youth Council. It also allows them to utilize information learned in the implementation of community projects and events. be well Youth Block Captains design, promote, and implement 1-3 activities, projects, or events each year to encourage healthy changes in the be well Zone among their peers, as well as, inform or recommend health policies (or best-practices) that could help to make healthy living easier for students at schools throughout the be well Zone. 

Diverse youth ranging in age from 8-17 years serve as Youth Block Captains on the be well Youth council with representation from be well schools and from the be well Zone. To date, 94 youth have completed the be well Youth Block Captain training since the start of the be well Youth program in 2012. Currently, there are 23 youth block captains actively serving on the be well Youth Council. 2016 healthy living projects for the Council included videos on both cooking/nutrition and anti-bullying. 2017 projects for the Council included a movie premiere night to showcase the 2016 videos and a carnival/family fun block party.

When asked what be well youth are most excited about, one youth responded, “Our events…how much planning goes into them and then seeing how big the event ends up being.”

School Wellness

The be well Youth program is now in its 3rd year of working with schools on wellness

efforts and has been involved with 9 schools in Denver and 5 schools in Aurora since 2012.

In collaboration with two school districts, Denver and Aurora, be well assists schools with

coordinating a School Wellness Team, including recruitment, meeting organization, and

structure. Three schools have received funding from the newly-instated be well Healthy

Schools Mini-Grant Program including William "Bill" Roberts School (DPS), McAuliffe

International School (DPS), and Montview Elementary School (APS). Each wellness team

completes an assessment/inventory to learn the current “health status” of their school

and is then charged with developing and executing a roadmap to improve healthy living

at their school.

  • School Wellness Teams are comprised of various stakeholders such as principals, teachers, parents, students, nurses and community members. Students play a key role on the school wellness team in that they have unique insight on how to engage their peers in healthy living activities through first-hand experience and innovative interactions.
  • School Wellness Teams influence school operations and promote local policy change at the individual school level, advocate and help make sustainable built environment changes and/or provide programs, events or seminars to address specific health topics tailored to their student body or the surrounding community.

In both districts be well provides resources, support, and technical assistance to the School Wellness Teams to create healthier school environments and aid in the development of the roadmap. be well also provides funds to schools via the healthy schools mini-grant program, and leverages funds for schools to carry out their activities described in their roadmaps.

Activities and/or projects that have been implemented by be well School Health and Wellness Teams in the past include:

  • Gaga Pits- construction of 2 large, octagonal Jewish Dodgeball Pits to increase opportunities for physical activity and promote active group play for students and the surrounding Park Hill neighborhood community (McAuliffe International School).

  • Bill Roberts School Garden-a 14 bed school vegetable garden to produce and promote more healthful foods for students and families via donations to the school food pantry, interactive classroom curriculum, middle school cooking classes and the summer garden program (William “Bill Roberts School).

  • Classroom Brain Boosts- 2 daily breaks in classroom instruction for movement, wiggles, and water (Ashley Elementary).

  • Walking School Bus-a Safe Routes to School program where parents and students walk to school together before the bell to increase physical activity and promote pedestrian safety (Fletcher Community School, Montview Elementary School, Crawford Elementary School & Paris Elementary School)

  • Bike Rodeo- an all-day school event empowering kids to bike and walk safely to school including practice-skills workshops and a community bike swap (William “Bill” Roberts K-8).

  • Zumba Classes-hour long after school family fitness classes to provide opportunities for students, parents, and staff to increase physical activity levels (Ashley Elementary & Venture Prep).

  • be well Snack Cart- a mobile cart serving fresh fruit or low-sugar granola bars to high school students during extended school days (Venture Prep).

  • Zumante’s Garden Program- a learning garden for students and the Northeast Park Hill community, including a Youth Farmer’s Market (Smith Renaissance School).

For more information on school wellness or the healthy schools mini grant program, please contact Emily Shore at

Youth Block Captain Training

The be well Youth Block Captain training, is a fun, interactive 6-week healthy living training

that equips children with new attitudes, skills and knowledge as it relates to health and

wellness and builds their capacity to serve on the be well Youth Council. In the training,

be well Youth explore community organizing and advocacy strategies that can be used as

a tool to build their will to lead healthier lives and promote healthy living opportunities

among their peers. Specifically, the training helps youth to eat healthy, move more,

maintain a healthy heart and be comfortable in their own skin. The training also helps

youth establish ways to share what they learned with their peers. All youth who complete

the training are considered be well Youth Block Captain Connectors and are recognized at

the Annual be well Awards and Community Celebration.

The training uses a combination of innovative and evidence-based strategies intended to motivate and engage youth as leaders in reducing the spread of childhood obesity and other preventable illnesses that impact children in the be well Zone and abroad.

Each year, new kids are nominated to participate in the be well Youth Block Captain training by their school principal, teacher, or trusted community member. Youth who complete the be well Youth Block Captain training and want to further pursue the be well Youth Program have the option of applying to join the be well Youth Council. • The be well Youth Block Captain training is held once a year. The last training was held November-December 2015. 23 youth block captains completed the 2015 training and 10 were selected to join the Youth Council in 2016. Youth Block Captain training 2017 starts on November 2, 2017. If you would like to nominate a local youth to participate in the be well Youth Block Captain training program, contact Felicia Freeman at

be well Youth is a program that engages kids, schools, and communities in creating and promoting fun activities, events, and programs to encourage healthy living among youth and their families in the be well Zone. be well Youth has 2 major initiatives: The be well Youth Block Captain program and be well School Health and Wellness Teams in Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools within the be well Zone.

To date, more than 1,700 people have been impacted by the be well Youth Program. These numbers do not include efforts facilitated by be well School Health and Wellness Teams in partnership with Denver and Aurora Public Schools.