Category Archives: Schools K-12

Apr 27 2012

Project SHAPE LA: Nurse Faculty Scholar Alum Aims to Help Children Get Active

Kynna Wright-Volel, PhD, RN, MPH, PNP-BC, FAAN, an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar alumna, recently won a five-year, $1.2 million grant funded jointly by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research and Office of Behavioral Social Science Research. She will use the grant to work with the Los Angeles Unified School District to launch Project SHAPE LA™, a coordinated school-health program designed to increase physical activity among youth in Los Angeles County schools.


Human Capital Blog: Please share your vision for Project Shape LA™, what its goals are and how many children and teens it will reach.

Kynna Wright-Volel: Project SHAPE LA™ targets 24 middle schools in underserved areas of Los Angeles and will touch nearly 12,000 students. With this grant, we want physical education teachers to ignite a passion for physical activity – to teach kids that by being active, they can be healthy and achieve their dreams. Anticipated outcomes from this program include: increased moderate to vigorous physical activity; increased scores on the California State Board of Education’s FitnessGram Test in the areas of aerobic fitness, body composition and muscular strength/endurance; and increased academic achievement, as evidenced by higher scores on the California standardized test.

HCB: Why is a project like this needed in your community?

Wright-Volel: According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, one in five children in the Los Angeles Unified School District is considered obese. Health inequities exist as well; children who are racial and ethnic minorities and/or come from families with low incomes have higher rates of obesity.

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Apr 13 2012

An RWJF Scholar's Non-Traditional Career Path from Public School Teacher to Medical Student

By Cheryl Chun, MS, MA, Health Policy Scholar, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College


Before I was a medical student, I was a teacher. I taught high school mathematics for two years in the District of Columbia.

Being a public school teacher was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. I spent my days trying to not only excite my students about mathematics, but also to help change their life trajectory by encouraging them to go to college.

Neither of these tasks was easy. Many of my students cited math as their least favorite subject in school. And despite the college atmosphere my colleagues and I worked diligently to create, many of my students struggled to accomplish the necessary coursework and SAT scores they needed for college.

I realized that teaching high-needs students was more complicated than having a good lesson plan. While I will always believe in the importance of having a good teacher in the classroom and up-to-date resources for them to use, my time in the classroom has showed me that often good students fall behind in school because of obstacles they face outside school. My students had to deal with guns and gang violence, not enough money for basic needs, and inadequate access to medical care. Many had no medical insurance and would miss class to spend all day waiting in line at free clinics to translate for their sick parent; or be too exhausted to come to class after spending all night with their sick child in the Emergency Room. I also saw how inadequate nutrition could affect students’ behaviors and their ability to learn.

Witnessing these needs in my classroom inspired me to go back to school and become a physician.

While I hope that I made an impact on my students while I was their teacher, I know they made an impact on me and changed my life trajectory. I hope to one day practice in a medically underserved area and help provide care to those who need it most.

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Sep 22 2011

NJ Takes Lead - School Nurses in Key Position to Combat Bullying

Tracy Perron, MSN, RN, is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Jersey Nursing Scholar. Her research is on school bullying. This post originally appeared on the blog of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative, a project of RWJF and the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Click here to see the original post.


Bullying is no longer considered a “rite of passage” or “what kids do” but instead has become an increasingly serious problem that can have deadly consequences.

On September 22, 2010 Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, jumped off the George Washington Bridge, just days after his roommate allegedly took a video of his romantic encounter with a man and streamed it on the Internet. Within weeks of the teen’s death the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie formed a task force to begin the process of enacting the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. The New Jersey Senate passed the bill on November 22, 2010, just two months after Clementi’s death.

On January 6, 2011 Christie signed the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights; this is the toughest anti-bullying law in the country. The new law can charge students with criminal harassment, criminal battery, stalking and violation of civil rights.

In order to comply with the new legislation, every school will have to appoint an anti-bullying specialist, coordinator and safety team. All schools will have a parent, teacher, paraprofessional and student representative as part of the safety team. School districts will be graded by the state on how they address bullying.

Children who experience bullying have both psychological and physical symptoms. Children experiencing symptoms related to being bullied may find their way to the school nurse’s office. Sometimes, the link between the visit to the nurse and bullying are obvious, like injuries from fighting related to bullying. But sometimes it might not be so obvious; victims of bullying can exhibit a wide range of both physical and psychological symptoms including: stomach ache, feeling tense or nervous, fatigue, irritability, headaches, severe depression, and school avoidance. These youths may be looking for an escape from the hallways, playgrounds or gym class and seek refuge in the nurse’s office.

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