Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Syracuse City School District Announce Funding for Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield Regional President Dr. Arthur Vercillo, M.D., and Syracuse City School District Superintendent Contreras
Announce Funding for Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection
-- Local Youth Development Program Receives Multiyear Grant from Major Health Insurance Provider to Launch a Healthy Mind/Healthy Body Program --
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Dr. Arthur Vercillo, regional president of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield and Sharon Contreras, Syracuse City School District superintendent, made a major announcement today that will impact Syracuse city students participating in Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection (HW-SC). During the news conference, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield pledged a $90,000 multiyear grant that will help HW-SC launch a program called Healthy Mind/Healthy Body. The initiative will teach healthy habits to Syracuse students, leading to their overall well-being and success in and out of the classroom.
Obesity among young people causes not only medical troubles but also leads to social and academic challenges. Absenteeism, low self-esteem and teasing all affect a student’s ability to learn. In addition, poor nutrition directly affects cognitive function and impairs a student’s ability to focus, learn and achieve.
According to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, there is an association between physical inactivity, unhealthy dietary behaviors and poor academic performance. On the other hand, high school students who were physically active at least 60 minutes per day for five or more days per week, played on at least one sports team, and/or watched television for three or fewer hours per day performed better academically than those students who did not.
“Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is pleased to continue its long-standing support of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection and the tremendous potential of its new Healthy Mind/Healthy Body program,” Vercillo said. “As a nonprofit company that seeks to continually improve the health and healthcare of residents of upstate New York, we applaud the program’s goal of teaching healthy habits to young people in our community. Our hope is that health habits instilled during teenage years will boost graduation rates and carry over into adulthood.”
“Nutrition and exercise play an important role in a student’s academic performance, and this generous grant from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield emphasizes both,” Contreras said. “By teaching our students about healthy eating habits and fitness, we are providing them with skills that they will carry over into all aspects of their lives”
Funding from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield will be used to launch Healthy Mind/Healthy Body — aimed at educating youth about the benefits of healthy eating, the importance of exercise and how to make healthier choices to improve their overall wellbeing.
Over a three-year period, the money will support:
- Enhancements to HW-SC’s current kitchen area, creating a fully equipped teaching kitchen that will offer students the space and equipment to learn healthy cooking and preparation skills.
- Improvements to HW-SC’s community garden for youth to grow vegetables that will be used in recipes. Extra food grown will be donated to Syracuse food banks, giving the garden an added facet of providing a community service component, as well. Flowers grown in the garden will be planted in pots that are painted in HW-SC’s art classes and regularly delivered to nearby nursing homes, teaching youth the valuable lesson of giving back to the community.
- Train students and staff in collaboration with Syracuse University on the importance of healthy eating and activity, with the goal of having the students and staff teach other students these skills through weekly enrichments, healthy role modeling and cooking classes.
- Fitness and nutrition assessment to help provide a benchmark to show each student’s success while participating in the program. HW-SC will track each student’s GPA and attendance records and will compare the data to illustrate proven outcomes.
- Each student will have the opportunity to practice healthy habits and exercise through use of HW-SC’s gym and workout area, which is currently being updated. Students will be able to utilize the equipment available to them after school and on Saturdays.
“We are grateful to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield for providing Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection with a substantial multiyear grant to help us launch Healthy Mind/Healthy Body,” said Wayne O’Connor, executive director of Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection. “We understand the correlation between good health and excellent academics, and our new health-minded program will allow our students to develop healthy habits, leading to overall academic success.”
HW-SC is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The nationally recognized dropout-prevention program has a proven track record of helping at-risk youth graduate with the skills and confidence they need to be successful in college and the workforce. The cornerstone of its evidence-based model are school-based youth advocates, who serve as long-term mentors and liaisons to students and their families, linking students to individualized support services, employment training and on-the-job mentoring, academic tutoring and year-round enrichment programs. HW-SC helps students develop good habits, achieve academic success and become responsible young adults.
HW-SC serves nearly 930 Syracuse City School District students in grades 7-12. Last year, 89 percent of the program’s students were promoted to the next grade level.
Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2012, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is an affiliate of Hillside Family of Agencies. The program serves nearly 4,000 youth at risk of dropping out of school in Rochester, N.Y., Syracuse, N.Y., Buffalo, N.Y., and in Prince George’s County, M.D. Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection’s evidence-based model is comprehensive and unique — combining long-term mentoring with job training, part-time work experience and year-round academic support. For more information, visit www.hillside.com/HWSC.aspx.
Hillside Family of Agencies
Celebrating its 175th anniversary in 2012, Hillside Family of Agencies is one of the oldest nonprofit family and youth human services organizations in western and central New York. The organization provides child welfare, mental health, youth development, juvenile justice, special education and developmental disabilities services across central and western New York and in Prince George’s County, M.D. Last year, Hillside Family of Agencies provided services to 12,636 youth and families in need.
Hillside Family of Agencies is comprised of affiliates Crestwood Children’s Center, Crestwood Children’s Foundation, Hillside Children’s Center, Hillside Children’s Foundation, Hillside Shared Services, Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection and Snell Farm Children’s Center. For more information, visit www.hillside.com.
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield
Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, a nonprofit independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association, is part of a family of companies that finances and delivers vital health care services to 1.8 million people across upstate New York. Excellus BlueCross BlueShield provides access to high-quality, affordable health coverage, including valuable health-related resources that our members use every day, such as cost-saving prescription drug discounts and wellness tracking tools in our Step Up program. To learn more, visit excellusbcbs.com