(Cindy Watkins, President of the North Carolina Partnership for Children, opened the celebration.)
On Friday, June 19, Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool in Greensboro was formally designated a Shape NC demonstration site, one of only six sites in North Carolina.
Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children is a six-year, $6 million initiative of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation and The North Carolina Partnership for Children created to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight and ready to learn.
Shape NC assists communities across the state to promote healthy eating and active play among North Carolina’s youngest children, from birth through age five. The initiative works with child care programs like Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool to instill healthy behaviors early on, creating a solid foundation for a healthy life.
(Sandy Johnson, Director of the Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool, shared her passionate Shape NC journey with an attentive crowd.)
“When we began this work in 2011 we were hoping to make improvements to our outdoor classrooms,” said Sandy Johnson, Director, Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool. “At that time we had no idea how participating in this journey with Shape NC would be the catalyst for totally revolutionizing the way we view early education and what a profound impact it would make in the lives of our children, families, our staff and our school.”
“We’ve seen children develop a passion for growing healthy foods and trying new foods that their parents never thought they would eat,” she continued. “As a school family we have grown in our understandings of what a healthy life looks like, not only in what we eat but how we move as well. As a result, the children will be better prepared for their future, and our families and staff benefit too.”
Several speakers shared their stories about the transformation at Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool and the importance of the work of developing healthy behaviors early in a child’s life.
“North Carolina is leading the country in helping our youngest learners develop healthy behaviors from birth,” said Jennifer MacDougall of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina. “People from across the country, including the White House’s Let’s Move initiative, are looking to places like this and people like you to lead the way.”
Cindy Watkins, President, North Carolina Partnership for Children, shared stories about the important role outdoor learning has played in her life and committed to making this opportunity available to more children across North Carolina. Rich Rairigh, Director of Be Active Kids, commended Ms. Johnson and her staff on prioritizing good health and called the center “a beacon for the whole community.”
Students and teachers performed a routine to Pharrell’s “Happy”, then Greensboro City Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann and two preschool students cut the ribbon to officially open the outdoor space. While eating healthy snacks, guests toured the preschool outdoor learning area, as well as the infant and toddler areas.
Trish Nelson, Program Specialist for the Guiding Healthy Behaviors in Early Childhood at the Guilford County Partnership for Children, has worked with Johnson and her team for several years to help them reach this goal.
“We are so proud of the work that has been done here and their new demonstration site status,” said Nelson. “It makes my heart joyous to see healthy, happy, active children and families! We’re excited to share this newly designated Shape NC Demonstration Site with Early Childhood Educators throughout Guilford County, and to spread the good news that together we can take steps promoting health starting with our youngest children.”
(In line with Shape NC healthy, delicious snacks were served to all.)