Clinton recognizes schools leading the way in healthy choices; none from Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - President Bill Clinton returned to Little Rock on Monday, honoring hundreds of educators at the Clinton Library. The school leaders from across the country were being recognized for their efforts that exceeded standards for creating a healthy school environment. But none of those schools hailed from Arkansas.

Nearly 300 educators sat anxiously waiting for President Clinton to address them at a conference held by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, an organization co-founded by the Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association. All the educators representing 267 schools from across the country had exceeded goals set forth by the Alliance in their Healthy Schools Program.

"Don't make it a secret that you're complying or exceeding these guidelines," said Clinton. "[Say] that you're proud of it, that it's good for your kids."

When addressing the high achieving educators Clinton made it his goal to address the news of the small percentage of schools that are pulling out of the new federal school lunch program.

"All these people who want to go back to the way it was are not prepared to take responsibility personally or economically for the consequences of raising a generation of people that get diabetes and its intended consequences," said Clinton.

Clinton added these schools will, "wreck lives and damage the American economy."

Howell Wechsler, CEO of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, mentioned how important it is to understand how a healthy lifestyle can affect students.

"This is something that there's a growing body of evidence showing that improving the health, helping our children to be more physically active, to make healthier choices is good for them," said Wechsler, "including helping them to become better students."

Nearly 200 schools across Arkansas understand the benefits of introducing a healthy lifestyle to their students. Schools in all corners of the state, and many in Central Arkansas, participate in the Healthy Schools Program.

This year's highest achieving school was Wilkerson Elementary School, located in El Monte, California.

"We never take a high stakes test without exercising," said Jose Muñoz, principal at Wilkerson Elementary. "So anytime we have anything like our quarterly benchmarks or we have our state tests we start off with a 20-minute walk."

The results show at Wilkerson; their annual performance test scores increased by over 100 points.

Wechsler mentioned that although no Arkansas schools were recognized this year, five schools in Arkansas were recognized for their efforts last year. He said there are cycles where certain states shine and he said the Alliance is continuing to work hard with the schools participating in the Natural State.

"I'm pretty optimistic they're going to apply next year and we're going to have a good roster from Arkansas next year," said Wechsler.