By Julie Baughman, email@example.com
6:05 AM EDT, September 18, 2013
Kaiser Permanente's partnership with Riverview Elementary that began last month is taking a new step to provide students at the Kessler Road school with resources and programs to inspire and encourage healthy living habits.
The partnership is part of Kaiser's Thriving Schools program, in which the company, which has facilities in nine states and the District of Columbia, adopts local schools and provides them with additional resources to promote healthy living.
Next month, the Riverview school community will be participating in Kaiser's Fire Up Your Feet program.
That program, which will run from Oct. 1 through 31, challenges students, teachers and family members to increase their physical activity. Participants log their activity online and compete for prizes.
Kaiser's efforts to work with the school on Kessler Road began in early August when the company, with headquarters in Oakland, Calif., sent a group of volunteers to assist teachers setting up for the new year.
"Almost a dozen of us volunteered at the school," said Maritha Gay, senior director of external affairs at Kaiser's facility off Washington Boulevard.
"We helped paint the hallways at the school, we cleaned out storage rooms at the schools, we went into individual classrooms and wiped down the classrooms to help the teachers," Gay said.
Mary Maddox, principal at Riverview, said the school is exploring other ways to partner with Kaiser, in addition to the October program.
"We're also looking into them doing some wellness classes for both our parents and our staff, and maybe some exercise classes," she said.
"There's many different things that we're looking into with them," Maddox said of working with Kaiser. "One of the things we're looking into is a bunch of different assemblies about health and nutrition at no cost to our school.
"The children will get exposure to not only the Baltimore County curriculum for health and wellness, which is a great program, but that [help from Kaiser] supports it," Maddox said. "So they are inundated with healthy habits."
She said she is thrilled about the collaboration with the not-for-profit health plan, which was founded in 1945.
"It was really nice to see these people coming in who are not teachers ... cut out lamination and putting up bulletin boards to help teachers get ready for school," Maddox said of the volunteers' work before school began. "It's really an exciting partnership."
First District Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the Lansdowne area as well as Catonsville and Arbutus, said he is happy to see Kaiser Permanente getting involved in the community.
"I'm excited to see them starting to reach out," Quirk said.
"It's a tougher area in the county from an economic perspective," he said. "I commend what Kaiser Permanente is doing [with Riverview Elementary] and I think it's something that needs to be done."
Gay said the partnership will not only affect students' daily habits, but hopefully increase academic performance as well.
"We know that when kids don't eat well, or they are not exercising, that those kids have lower test scores," Gay said. "Ultimately, through the Thriving Schools program, we want kids to be healthy, but we know that also contributes to them having higher test scores."
According to the Maryland State Assessment scores released in July, 66.2 percent of Riverview's first-graders, 72.7 percent of the fourth-graders and 71.7 percent of the fifth-graders were proficient or advanced in reading, for example.
"We want to lift up the schools so they will have higher performance educationally," Gay said. "So that's why it's so important for us to address the more vulnerable communities [like Riverview].
"The Thriving Schools program is really an ongoing commitment we've made to improve health in kindergarten through 12th grade," Gay said. "It's really about partnering with schools and creating a culture of health within schools.
"We wanted to support Riverview," Gay said. "It was a combination of understanding the school environment, understanding the kids that are attending the school at a socioeconomic level.
"We thought we would be able to provide resources and tools to help the school become healthier," she said.