MMS hosts Health and Wellness Fair for students

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, April 3, 2024

By Rian Johnson

Middlesboro Middle School opened its doors for a Health and Wellness Fair as students filled the gymnasium and visited booths hosted by school and local organizations to learn more about physical and mental health.

Middlesboro Middle School Principal Bill Jones appreciates community partners in the school and emphasizes the excitement of observing students interacting with various vendors.

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“Witnessing our students engage with all the vendors and truly seek information about leading a healthy lifestyle in today’s society is exciting,” Jones said. “A heartfelt thank you to all our community and school partners for showing our students support and encouragement.”

The fair was organized by Jenna Voges, Full-Service Community Schools Coordinator. She was tasked with creating better outcomes for students at MMS by working to reduce learning barriers. She is one of three FSCSC’s placed by Partners for Rural Impact (PRI) in the Middlesboro district.

“Middle school is a time when students experience a lot of different feelings and emotions,” Voges said. “Peer influence intensifies, and many children may face pressure to conform to social norms or engage in risky behaviors. The health and wellness fair is just one of the ways we offer students support and resources to help them be healthy and successful.”

Statistics show that middle schoolers are increasingly engaging with social media platforms, which can both positively and negatively impact their social and emotional well-being. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that excessive screen time and social media use can lead to sleep disturbances, decreased physical activity, and potential negative effects on self-esteem and body image.

In addition to Voges’ program, another PRI program represented at the fair was Stop Violence, a program designed to provide curriculum-based programs on a variety of topics including mental health, internet safety, bullying, and more.

“The Health and Wellness Fair was a unique way for middle school students to learn about some healthy habits including internet safety,” said Stop Violence Project Director Evelyn Bailey. “We were thrilled to share more information with students about a program we offer to help students learn how to be safe when using social media or browsing the web.”

Danielle C. Wilson, the Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Coach at MMS, recognizes that students also spend a substantial portion of their school day on their Chromebooks.

“Part of health and wellness includes managing screen time,” Wilson said. “While at the fair, we were able to share information with students on how to better balance their time online.”

One resource Wilson shared with students was a QR code to a video on how students can find media balance in their lives. She also sent home tips for parents and an activity for students to do with their families.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), strong family support can buffer the negative effects of social and emotional challenges during middle school and children who have positive relationships with their parents are more likely to exhibit better social skills, emotional resilience, and overall well-being.

“Of all the resources we shared, my favorite resource we gave students was a planning sheet to reflect on current digital habits,” Wilson said. “It asked students to think about how those habits make students feel and to think about changes they may want to make.”

Research published in the journal Developmental Psychology suggests that children who have better emotional regulation skills tend to have more positive social relationships and academic success.

Students were also given information on financial wellness, social and emotional wellness, and physical wellness.

The following organizations were represented at the health and wellness fair: Bell County Health Department, Verizon Innovative Learning Schools, Family Pride Counseling, First State Bank of the Southeast, Huffman and Huffman, Lemonades, MHS Athletics, Pinnacle of Purpose, and Stop Violence.