The following guest blog from a Nebraska high school student is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting healthy meals in schools and the impact of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country. We thank these students, parents, teachers, and school nutrition professionals for sharing their stories!
By Morgan Ryan, student, Firth, Nebraska
When I started my sophomore year at Norris High School in Firth, Nebraska, I was unhealthy and both my self-confidence and grades suffered as a result. I averaged C’s in most of my classes and pretty much kept to myself at school.
It was during my sophomore year that my health teacher Ann Schroder helped me see that I hadn’t been making the best choices for my future. In her class, I learned how I could improve my diet and add more physical activity to each day. I started to pay attention to what I ate and drank, and how much physical activity I was getting.
My district joined the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program in 2008 and I started to notice changes at my school. For example, our vending machine served milk instead of sugary drinks. The cafeteria offered breakfast at school (and I actually started eating it!). I saw less sugary snacks in the cafeteria and more whole grain- and protein-rich options replacing them. My school even installed a salad bar and I began eating salads regularly for lunch in addition to drinking more water throughout the day.
Overall, I lost about 80 lbs, in part thanks to my teacher’s inspiration and my school’s healthy efforts. But more importantly, I gained the confidence to participate more in school – both in and outside of the classroom.
During my senior year I joined the football team and even started in a few games! With less weight and self-consciousness holding me back, my running improved and I was proud to also make it to the District Championships with my track team.
By fueling my body with healthy foods and becoming more active, I found that studying became easier and I could focus for longer periods in class. I moved my grade point average from 2.4 to 3.5 by my senior year—and that’s no small feat.
My experience taught me that will power combined with a supportive, healthy environment can help anyone achieve even seemingly impossible goals. I hope to someday inspire young people as my health teacher inspired me, perhaps as a teacher or even a coach – that is, once I finish my education. The sky’s the limit!
Learn more about joining the Healthy Schools Program. You, too, can join the effort to bring healthy changes to your school and community!