Buffalo Jones in the running for $45K grant





While voters are deciding the future of the country through Election Day, another voting process close to home could have a big impact on one local school.

Buffalo Jones Elementary School is in the running for a $45,000 Healthy School Makeover grant. This vote is open to everyone who has access to a computer or smart phone and will be open until Nov. 14.

"We have a lot of competition," third-grade teacher Kerri Steelman said, adding that more than 300 other schools are competing for the prize.

To participate, Steelman put together a video and submitted it to the 2012 Healthy School Makeover Contest, in which the $45,000 prize will translate into fitness programming and equipment for the school.

Steelman said that the school's best shot at winning is getting people to vote every day until Nov. 14.

"People can vote once a day — and the computers won't let you vote more than once a day — so if people want to help, all they need to do is go to the website, www.healthyschoolmakeover.com, and then search for the video called, 'Buffalo Jones wants a Healthy School Makeover,' by Kerri Steelman," she said.

Steelman put the video together after hearing about the nationwide contest.

"I spent a couple of weeks collecting video footage of people in the community, school employees and different people who have worked with the students and families in the Buffalo Jones community and talked to them about what $45,000 worth of fitness equipment could do for our students, and after that, Casey put together the video and did all the editing and we got it in," Steelman said, referring to Casey Wise, head of USD 457's instructional technology department.

"I interviewed Mrs. Solis, the principal, and she talked about how we could use the grant to really change things and reduce obesity and educate our community here at Buffalo Jones. Dr. Atha talked about how we're moving towards the Common Core Curriculum, and that includes a health component, so we really are trying to focus a lot of our education on health," Steelman said. "And we ended up featuring — there's the whole school and all the kids are screaming, 'We want a healthy school makeover' There's also one really cute part of it where the kids are doing some muscle poses."

On Nov. 14, the top 10 videos, determined by the greatest number of votes, will be selected to go through to the next phase, which is a judging process that will take place from Nov. 14 to Dec. 10.

"So we have two weeks to get as many votes as we can to try to make the finals," Steelman said.

The winner of the $45,000 prize will be announced on Dec. 10.

The voting opened on Nov. 1, and Steelman said that she already has had positive feedback after sending an email to USD 457 staff asking for both their and their students' votes.

"We've had students coming in after school to vote in our computer lab and kids are excited so they're getting their family members involved and I've gotten responses from teachers at the middle schools, intermediate centers and high school saying they're going to have their classes vote for us every day. It's an amazing feeling to have such amazing support from the community," Steelman said. "I'm hoping we have enough people vote for us, it's going to make a really strong statement to the committee. If we blow everyone out of the water with votes, they're going to know that we have a community that's dedicated to using the resources and materials that we get."

Steelman also is a part of the Wellness Champion Group at Buffalo Jones, along with fellow third-grade teachers Diane Smith and Dawn Graham.

"We plan fitness activities for the staff and we have our fitness club for students and so our part of the video is basically saying that we're dedicated to making a difference, whether we win the grant or not. We're going to try to make that change for our staff and students," she said. "Unfortunately, we don't have a budget, so anything we want to buy for the club or the program has to come out of our pocket."

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