275 students to take part in first-of-its-kind program, through Erie County Clerk Kearns' 'Healthy District Initiative'
Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo & WNY, New York State Parks and five superintendents from Erie County school districts have announced the first "HDI Parks Clean-Up Day." The collaborative effort between the five school districts is part of Kearns' "Healthy District" initiative.
Kearns, joined by Phil Haberstro, executive director of The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo & WNY, representatives from State Parks, superintendents from Orchard Park, Lackawanna and Ken-Ton schools, as well as a representative from the Buffalo School District, announced the event Friday at Buffalo Harbor State Park.
The intention of the "HDI Parks Clean-Up Day" is for students from, Buffalo, Ken-Ton, Lackawanna, Orchard Park and West Seneca to work with students from another school district as they engage in community service, while getting active and having fun outside.
Using the Connect Kids to Parks Field Trip Grant Program (Connect Kids), the "Parks Clean-Up Day" will take place at various park locations on Thursday, as buses from each school district are dispersed into three parks. The three state parks participating in the event include Buffalo Harbor State Park, Beaver Island State Park and Knox Farm.
Two hundred and seventy-five students will take part in the event. Knox Farm will host 73 students from Buffalo and Orchard Park schools, Buffalo Harbor State Park will host 124 students from West Seneca and Lackawanna, and Beaver Island State Park will host 78 students from Buffalo and Ken-Ton schools.
Connect Kids is a field trip refund grant program connecting New York school children with nature and state history. The Connect Kids will refund field trip costs for visits to a New York state park, nature center or historic site, or a Department of Environmental Conservation environmental education center, fish hatchery or selected sites.
The "Healthy District" initiative is a program under the clerk's "Wellness Collaborative." "HDI" is a partnership between the Erie County clerk's office, the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo and five Erie County school districts to collaborate on strategies focusing on the health and wellness of the students.
"The 'Parks Clean-Up Day' is an exciting addition to the 'Healthy District' initiative," Kearns said. " 'HDI' has created an opportunity to bring school officials from across the county together to brainstorm ideas on how to best tackle health and wellness in our schools. One topic that all districts got behind was how to incorporate, and best teach, diversity. The 'HDI Park's Clean-Up Day' offers the perfect environment for students from the different school districts to work together to better themselves and their community. Without the NYS 'Connect Kids to Parks' grant, this exciting program would not be possible. I look forward to meeting the students and helping to keep our incredible parks beautiful."
New York State Parks Western District Director Mark Thomas said, "We are grateful for the support of our parks and are pleased that the New York State Connect Kids to Parks Field Trip Grant program is supporting this youth stewardship effort. It is absolutely vital that we all do what we can to ensure that children have access to the outdoors, and we invite schools across WNY and the state to take advantage of the grant program."
Ken-Ton Superintendent Stephen Bovino said, "The Ken-Ton Community is excited about this opportunity for our students to work with others in a common cause provided by the 'HDI' initiative. Michele Melligan, one of Ken-Ton's school counselors who is involved in the project, said it best, 'It is an opportunity for kids to visit state parks while engaging in physical activity, making connections to other students from various districts supporting community awareness, diversity and acceptance, as well as giving a sense of pride in themselves promoting social and emotional health. We thank county Clerk Kearns for his efforts in promoting and advancing his 'Healthy District' initiative."