The Center for Rural School Health & Education (CRSHE) at the University of Denver (DU) has a vision for happy, healthy children and families living in vibrant rural communities. The Colorado Health Foundation has stepped in to “Make it Happen” with a $4.9 million grant awarded to CRSHE to increase healthy eating and physical activity among high poverty, rural students and school staff. CRSHE, already a known partner in rural Colorado, will build on existing partnerships with 27 rural school districts to support them in implementing community-driven comprehensive health and wellness plans. CRSHE’s involvement in this process is key; it helps rural districts identify and successfully implement culturally relevant evidence-based practices. The Make it Happen grant period kicked off in October with expected completion in Oct. 2021.
“I’m excited for our rural school district partners. They’ve worked hard to develop thoughtful health and wellness plans and now have both financial resources and CRSHE support to put those plans in place,” said CRSHE Executive Director, Elaine Belansky, PhD.
According to Belansky, one of the top concerns of rural districts is mental health. With that in mind, CRSHE is also launching The Resiliency Project, specifically designed to complement Make it Happen by promoting youth mental health and resiliency. This effort is also generously funded by the Colorado Health Foundation and makes it possible for CRSHE to continue providing hands-on support in rural Colorado through in person meetings with rural educators to discuss mental health promotion strategies and a regional convening to share the latest best practices and school success stories. CRSHE will capitalize on DU’s state-of-the-art ECHO-DU technology, a virtual professional learning tool, in order to provide rural educators information about the latest best practices on topics such as social-emotional learning, suicide prevention, and bullying prevention.
“I’m thankful to the Colorado Health Foundation for recognizing that youth mental health is a top priority in rural Colorado school districts,” continued Belansky. “Allotting funds to address that need allows all of us to keep the momentum going.”
As a leader in Colorado’s Creede School District, Grants Manager and Health and Wellness Coordinator Lauren Sheldrake is looking at ways Make it Happen and the Resiliency Project can impact her constituents.
“In the past year, we have seen a significant increase in the mental health needs of our students and staff,” Sheldrake said. “The grant and these partnerships can open a door to addressing Colorado’s mental health crisis, creating the vibrant communities CRSHE envisions.”
Over the weekend, Elaine was able to chat with Colorado Public Radio about the project and ways the funding will be used in rural districts.