The Dakota County Board of Commissioners presented Public Health Achievement Awards to three recipients at its Board meeting Tuesday, April 4, as part of National Public Health Week.
Public Health Achievement Awards were give in three categories — youth, individual and community group.
Community Group - Developmental Psychology Program in Independent School District 196
The Developmental Psychology program in School District 196 reaches far beyond the classroom, and focuses on teaching chemical prevention curriculum and healthy life skills to all of the sixth graders in the district. The program successfully utilizes a research-backed, cross-age peer prevention strategy — 12th graders act as teachers and role models for all of the sixth graders. This program is a key factor into the district’s chemical use numbers being below the state average.
Individual - Connie Garling-Squire
Connie Garling-Squire is the Director of Early Learning and Equity for the South St. Paul Public Schools. She is also a dedicated champion for the overall well-being of Dakota County families. Garlin-Squire has been a key member of the Dakota County Birth to Age 8 Initiative Sponsor Group and Steering Work Group since it was launched in 2014.
With her leadership, the South St. Paul School District participated in a special pilot for Birth to Age 8 and saw great success. Connie spearheaded the efforts for staff to reach out to every referred family and worked to match their needs to services. This resulted in having 89 percent of the families participate in ECFE, Preschool, Early Childhood screening or have an early referral for the Help Me Grow program. As the Birth to Eight Initiative expands, Garlin-Squire continues to champion the work and its success. She has also worked with other local agencies to strengthen the family and student support systems in the South St. Paul community. South St. Paul received a grant for both Children’s Dental Services, to serve the neediest kids in that community by providing free dental care, and a sponsorship from the Second Harvest Food Shelf, providing 13-pound boxes of food to South St. Paul elementary school families.
Youth - 4H, Youth Teach Youth: Nutrition and Fitness Program
The 15 youth participating in this program come from Henry Sibley High School and St. Paul Secondary School. The teens deliver lessons to 100 kids ages 8 to 12 in northern Dakota County, who come from predominantly low-income families. Lessons on healthy topics, including eating, cooking, disease prevention and awareness, and choosing to be active help the kids learn new ways of to make their own healthy choices. The teen teachers also act as strong role models for these young kids, which not only uniquely inspires them, but also helps the teens see themselves as role models and leaders in their community.
The teens who teach the program are also linked to higher education by taking advantage of opportunities through the University of Minnesota Extension. They learn about careers in agriculture, what it is like to be a college student, and how to plan for their future.
The Dakota County Board established the Public Health Achievement Awards in 2000 to recognize and honor the contributions of Dakota County residents who devote their time, energy and talents to creating a healthy future for their fellow county residents.