Author Archives: Jennifer Ng'andu

Supporting the Whole Learner in Every School

Feb 5, 2019, 2:00 PM, Posted by Jennifer Ng'andu

Social emotional development is key to every child’s education and paves a path to life-long health. A new report shares specific recommendations for research, practice and policy to promote all students’ social, emotional and academic development.

Students in a classroom.

Dr. James Comer is a pioneer. Decades before the science of learning and development caught up to him, he understood that all children need well-rounded developmental experiences in order to seize opportunities in life. His parents hailed from the deeply segregated South, but they helped him thrive in the era of Jim Crow, investing in his social and emotional well-being and providing safe, supportive, nurturing and demanding educational experiences.

Through that lived experience and Dr. Comer’s work as a physician and child psychiatrist, he understood that one of the most important ways to support children was to focus on where they spend a substantial part of their day: schools. He also understood that many children did not have opportunities to benefit from an environment that supported their well-being and their ability to have a full learning experience. He set out to change this through a remarkable model that has earned him the moniker “the godfather of social and emotional learning.”

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Dining Out Smarter With New Menu Labeling Rules

May 7, 2018, 12:00 AM, Posted by Jennifer Ng'andu

New menu labeling information will help families make healthier choices and may save billions of dollars in health care costs over the next 20 years.

A family reading a menu in a restaurant.

Do you remember the spring of 2011? The iPhone 4 was all the rage. Plenty of people were still figuring out what a Tweet was. We were learning from Beyoncé that girls run the world.  

Spring of 2011 was also when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first proposed national menu labeling rules. These rules would require that chain restaurants and other food retailers provide calorie counts and other nutrition information to their customers.

Today, seven years later, those rules finally take effect. This important milestone will make it significantly easier for parents and families to make healthier choices when eating out. The potential benefits to our nation’s health and economic well-being are substantial.

How did we get here? Why is this a big deal? And what’s the connection to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) Culture of Health vision?

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How Lessons From Abroad Are Uplifting Youth in the United States

Aug 23, 2017, 12:00 PM, Posted by Jennifer Ng'andu

Creative programs in Latin America are inspiring U.S. communities to pursue similar approaches that connect young adults to education and employment.

International Youth Foundation

Like many high school graduates in Brazil, Caroline was eager to find a job. She desperately needed money to continue her studies and pursue her dream of becoming an engineer. But two years after graduating, she was still unemployed. Caroline eventually managed to improve her job prospects in an unlikely way—through drawing, dance and breath work.

Intent on breaking free from a family history of women who weren’t able to get good jobs or finish high school, Caroline discovered a job training program run by Rede Cidadã (The Citizen Network). The non-profit organization connects youth to jobs and apprenticeships throughout Brazil, where the youth unemployment rate is nearly 25 percent.

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Building Healthy, Safe, and Nurturing Schools

Sep 8, 2015, 4:44 PM, Posted by Jennifer Ng'andu

Promoting good health for kids early in life and in their learning environments can provide all children with the foundation they need to achieve their potential—now and throughout their lifetimes.

A group of children writing words on a blackboard with a teacher watching.

My aunt, a teacher in Connecticut, likes to say that her students carry more into their classrooms than just their backpacks. As some 50 million students enter the classrooms of our nation’s public elementary, middle and high schools this month for a new year of learning and growth, it’s important to remember that schools are more than places of academic achievement. They’re also key community institutions that influence the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children.

We already know that schools are important places to promote kids’ health. That’s why, for nearly a decade, RWJF has worked to improve food choices and increase physical activity in schools nationwide. Through our longtime support of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program—which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary—we have helped students in nearly 30,000 schools eat better and move more. This is important because research shows that health has an impact on kids’ academic and lifelong success.

But schools also teach kids social and emotional skills like sharing, cooperating, and engaging positively with each other and with adults. These are critical skills—a recent study shows that kids with better social emotional skills are more likely to graduate from college and secure good-paying jobs later in life. The opposite holds true as well. Kids with weaker social skills are more likely to drop out of high school, abuse drugs and alcohol or spend time in jail.

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