Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Our free weekly e-newsletter provides journalistic coverage of Central Park schools, with a particular emphasis on topics that our community cares most about (i.e.  safety, funding, school choice, district leadership).

Your email address will only be used for the newsletter and not shared.

be well teaches Central Park students mental and physical health practices for life

(The be well Health and Wellness Initiative is part of the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities. School community members interested in starting a Wellness Team should contact School Wellness Project Manager, Meredith Fast McReynolds, at

Robin Bresnahan, Swigert International’s gifted and talented coordinator, posed an intriguing question recently to a roomful of fifth graders.

“What did you do to show yourself love this week,” she asked.

Swigert GT coordinator Robin Bresnahan with fifth graders discussing mental and physical health techniques.

Student hands eagerly shot up in the air.

“I decided to journal this week,” one girl proudly says. “I realized I never really asked myself, ‘How am I doing?’ It was nice to have that check-in with myself.”

Bresnahan was leading Swigert’s Elevate Training that assists fifth graders transitioning into middle school an opportunity to focus on holistic health and wellness. Elevate is part of a program of the be well Health and Wellness Initiative of the Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities.

be well is the major health and wellness initiative of the foundation. It is a collection of innovative, grassroots programs that connect residents to healthcare, fitness and nutrition resources.

In 45 minutes, students discussed how they are working on their mental health, whether by spending less time on social media, prioritizing exercise outdoors or spending quality time with family and friends. Students then participated in a workout that they can complete anywhere using their bodyweight.

Dion Futch, an athletic director at Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, leads Swigert fifth graders through physical exercises.

“If there was a pill for exercise,” Bresnahan told the students, “it would be the single most prescribed pill in the United States” due to its physical and mental benefits.

From their seats, students fought gravity by suspending their arms by their sides for one minute, activated their obliques through sitting side crunches and did high knees for cardio. Students focused on how to tailor their diets to meet their needs and wants while also enjoying a healthy snack.

Bresnahan showed students the “My Plate” Model  for ensuring that each meal has the recommended amount of fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains and dairy. She also encouraged students to add or remove some of those items to fit their individual and cultural needs.

Lastly, students dove into what they can do to prioritize sleep hygiene through setting a bedtime, lowering the lights about an hour before they go to bed, minimizing screen time and reading a book or journaling when sleep does not come easily.

“A lot of students prioritize their skin care routine,” Bresnahan says, “but no serum is as beneficial to the skin as a good nights’ sleep.”

Bresnahan was inspired to give her students support in response to rising concerns across the country about student mental health. In collaboration with the be well Health and Wellness Initiative, Bresnahan surveyed her school community to determine areas that need wellness support the most.

Overwhelmingly, students and teachers cited the need to focus on mental health, or how to use tools and resources to ensure they feel their best and can navigate any emotions such as loneliness, anxiety and fear of failure. The weekly Elevate Training helps students take steps to improve their holistic health, which includes mental, physical and social wellness.

Community voice is the center of the process to create opportunities and projects that provide students, families and teachers wellness resources. True to be well’s grassroots nature, these projects are launched by the School Wellness Project Manager who initiates conversations and communications to help them achieve healthy living goals by creating a School Wellness Team.

School Wellness Project Manager, Meredith Fast McReynolds, prepares healthy salads for students.

School Wellness Teams include students, staff and community folks who have a passion for all school community members to have what they need to feel their best physically and emotionally. Currently, School Wellness Teams are working in Denver Green (middle) School Northfield, Ashley and Swigert International elementary schools and Bill Roberts (K-8) in the Central Park neighborhood.

Students, staff and family members are invited to participate on the team and are asked for input on surveys. They use imagination and creativity to design projects that create change that the school wants to see.

Projects can include a student vs. staff basketball program to build community, a mental-health tools workshop series, aligning staff and families to support students, and creating a community cookbook to promote culturally relevant healthy eating and cooking.

Students and staff members at DGS Northfield, Bill Roberts and Ashley have also expressed a need for sustainable change to support mental health, physical activity and nutrition. At Ashley, the staff and students would like more opportunities for physical activities for boys to add to the school’s girl affinity groups.

During fall 2023 those schools largely shared ideas, collected data and other information and wrote grant proposals to fund projects. This spring DGS Northfield conducted a plant sale, while Bill Roberts created a mental health buddy system for fifth graders to connect with rising eighth graders to prepare to enter middle school.

Through those community-inspired programs, the School Wellness Teams provide access to physical activity, mental health and nutrition resources. be well can help whether it’s a focus on safe walking routes to school, the creation of a healthy walking trail or an after school cooking club. By working with school community partners like Bresnahan and Dion Futch, an athletic director at Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver, be well wants to help Central Park become a model of student health and wellness.

(The Foundation for Sustainable Urban Communities gives grants to schools in Central Park.)

Scroll to Top