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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Nursing Program Volunteers for Love Your School Project

Members of UALR’s Department of Nursing have teamed up with the City of Little Rock for the Love Your School initiative, a health promotion project aimed at reducing childhood obesity.

The project, which includes eight area elementary schools, began last semester and continues through May. The outcome-based program incorporates such components as classroom nutrition instruction, student container gardens, parent cooking classes, and school walking trails.

According to Cindy Gilbert, associate professor of nursing, the project takes full commitment from the elementary schools – teachers and parents must be on board to provide positive behavior change. The UALR nursing volunteers are helping out with the project’s first step, which involves taking the measurements of participating pupils to track progress.

So far, the UALR volunteer team – 20 strong – has collected measurements for more than 1,200 students.

“What is significant is that these children have to get parental permission to even begin,” said Gilbert, “so we feel pretty good about the number of participants involved.”

The team of volunteers, which includes nursing students, faculty, and staff, has already put in more than 200 volunteer hours, she said. The volunteers visit each school and spend an afternoon recording measurements such as BMI (body mass index). They will return in May to monitor students’ progress.

“Our students did this on a purely volunteer basis,” Gilbert said. “They began at the end of last semester, when they all had exams and clinicals, but they still took a few hours out of the day to pitch in, and they had such a good time doing it.”

The project is coordinated by Little Rock Serves, which was established through a Cities of Service Leadership Grant with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Rockefeller Foundation. Little Rock was one of only a handful of cities to receive the funding last year.

Schools participating in the project are Carver, Booker, Washington, Franklin, Bale, Romine, Mabelvale, and Geyer Springs.

Student volunteers from UALR include: Kirk Allen, Rebecca Anderson, Alisha Cunningham, Alex Ford, Angelina Gallardo, Lori Hendrix, Amanda Jones, Don Onyeokezire, Heather Perry, Hannah Peterson, Chris Pettigrew, Melody Phipps, Tammy Smith, Shauna Storey, Tiffany Tuck, Dani Turner, and Iudita Young .

Nursing faculty members include Dr. Jane Evans, Kimberly Porter, Melissa Reeves, and Debra Rurup.