Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

April 16, 2013

An `A' for Wellness

Student-run fair scores high marks

By Sonya Vartabedian

---- — They shimmied and swiveled to Zumba, skipped and jumped the double Dutch way, toured an ambulance and had their faces scanned for early signs of sun damage.

And that was just for starters.

Last Friday, students at Andover High School spent the day before April vacation week taking in a Wellness Fair in the field house organized by juniors in two of teacher Holly Breen’s health classes.

Brian McNally, program coordinator for health education and physical education for the Andover schools, said one of his goals is to implement the Centers for Disease Control’s coordinated school-based health model at every local school. He said the Wellness Fair was the perfect kick-off for the initiative at the high school.

Breen said she put the responsibility on her students to solicit participants and organize the event. And they delivered, signing up almost 40 local vendors, including medical professionals, fitness and nutrition experts and health and social service agencies.

“The local businesses were really supportive,” said Steven Kimball, who got his employer, Greater Boston Running Co. in downtown Andover, to participate.

McNally said students at every grade level had a chance to tour the fair, where they could learn about organ donation, make written pledges against texting and driving and to buckle up in the car, get a feel for reflexology and acupuncture and enjoy a taste of healthy snacks.

On the recommendation of the school nurse, Diana Glinos solicited the Melanoma Foundation of New England out of Emerson Clinic in Concord as a vendor. Representative Jane Flanagan, of Boxford, quickly agreed, and was glad she did.

Over the course of the day, Flanagan scanned a couple hundred faces, 80 percent of which had some degree of sun damage, including some pretty severe.

“It was very eye-opening, and shocking for some kids,” she said.

While the students made their way to all of the booths, the interactive ones proved most popular

Sammy Ruthazer had her back assessed by a chiropractor and toured the ambulance.

“There were so many different kinds of organizations here, some I’ve never heard about,” she said. “I think they should do it again.”

Given its success, McNally and Breen said they would be looking at the potential for bringing the fair back next year.

Flanagan, who crediting the students with putting on a well-run event, thinks they should.

“It’s a great reflection of Andover High,” she said.