Free Tools for Improving Wellness at Your School: How to Make the Most of PTA Healthy Lifestyles Grant Opportunity

Summertime.  Routines are relaxed, schools quiet down and families have a chance to play late in the backyard, enjoying that magical light with the fireflies.

Idyllic as summertime may seem, we know thousands of you are sitting with laptops, working hard to plan a fun and prosperous new school year with your colleagues on the PTA. After work, between household duties and often late into the night, past even a firefly’s bedtime, we know you’re out there fund raising, building, researching, applying and collaborating with your community to raise the bar. Our children are the most important people in our lives, and their school, where they spend so much of their defining early years, is where many of us devote our precious few volunteer hours to make a difference.

I say “we” because I am the Mother of two elementary students and have served our local PTA for the past 6 years. Professionally, I am the Digital Program Manager for the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation (HWCF), a CEO-led organization, designed to help reduce obesity–especially childhood obesity–by 2015. The Foundation promotes ways to help people achieve a healthy weight through energy balance–calories in and calories out.

Core to our mission is community outreach and supporting schools through our Together Counts™ program. Through partnerships with organizations like the National PTA, HWCF is able to make grants to schools all over the country and it is gratifying to see the impact when teachers, parents, students and community members come together in support of their local school. is brimming with free, standards-aligned health and wellness resources, tools, videos and widgets, all designed to plug into what works at your school. The Energy Balance 101 curriculum is being used by thousands of teachers. There are door hangers and coloring pages for your nurse’s office. After school volunteers have a recipe and activity basket at their fingertips in “Energy Balance 101: Enrichment Zone,” especially designed to get kids moving and thinking about nutrition during clubs and camps. The entire program Together Counts is available in Spanish with take home resources created especially for Spanish speaking parents, who often are in great need of tips on how to make the home environment more energy balanced. All of these resources are made available to parent leaders like you to share with teachers, administrators and (of course) your own family. Energy balance is a path toward a more active, healthy lifestyle and we hope you’ll find Together Counts an invaluable wellness resource in your school.

You can make a direct impact on your school by applying now for one of our Healthy Lifestyles grants. We’d like to hear more about what your school needs to make small improvements for big impact.

Join the conversation on Facebook.


Valerie Newcomb is an adviser to the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation.

The Next Step to Stop Bullying

by Ed Miller, Blackboard

ed miller

Every day, an estimated 160,000 children miss school due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students– an alarming, disheartening statistic. The good news is that the vast majority of students already have a bullying prevention tool in their pocket. We just need to give them a way to use it.

That’s why Blackboard is proud to announce today that we are offering TipTxt, a two-way anti-bullying service for students to confidentially notify school officials of bullying or school safety issues, to every K-12 school in the U.S. for free. All schools need is a dedicated phone line, and Blackboard will absorb all other costs. We’ve never done something on this scale, and no company has made such an offer. To add even greater visibility to this effort, we are thrilled to be collaborating with the National PTA.


Why are we doing this? Since our inception, Blackboard has worked to solve problems in education. And bullying and school safety are large problems. We hope that making this powerful service available at no charge to every school in the country will be a small step in creating safer learning environments.

According to the National Education Association, many children are reluctant to report bullying to school administrators or even their own teachers. They fear being viewed as “weak” or being labeled a “snitch.” While many school leaders have implemented programs to teach students to recognize and respond to bullying and other safety issues, students need even more help.

To make bullying prevention as effective as possible, we must remove as many barriers to reporting it as possible. Studies confirm that young people increasingly prefer to use text or SMS to communicate. According to a Pew Internet and American Life Study, 75 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 carry a cell phone, and people as young as eight text on them.

Nearly as immediate as a hotline conversation, texting has the added advantage of seeming more anonymous. This makes some students more likely to use it to report uncomfortable – or dangerous – situations.

With TipTxt, when a student is involved in or witnesses a bullying incident, they simply text a descriptive message to the unique district TipTxt number, and the message will be confidentially relayed to school administrators who can then respond with immediate action.

Preventing bullying is a delicate, and tiered, process. It requires involved parents, conscientious school administrators and, maybe most importantly, empowered students. Technology is an invaluable tool in the mission to end bullying. It reminds students they are not alone – and gives them access to instant, expert help.

Bring TipTxt into your community by contacting us at,and get involved in the conversation to help stop bullying with hashtag #tiptxt.