“It’s about building relationships,” said Laureen Williams, Student-Parent Support Program Coordinator, Pine Technical and Community College, states when asked about how she gets things done round the campus. “We have things in common with health and the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), so it’s natural to collaborate on projects.”
Thanks to the support and technical assistance from Partners in Healthy Living, the local sector of SHIP , Pine Technical and Community College partners to help Minnesotans live longer, healthier lives by decreasing obesity and tobacco use and exposure, which are the leading causes of chronic disease, disability and death. An organization that encourages a worksite wellness group can help to create a healthy environment for employees and students alike.
When it came to developing a worksite wellness committee for the staff at Pine Technical and Community College, it helped that Williams has been with the college for many years. “I knew who to ask and had working relationships with many of the employees already.” Another tip Williams has is to keep requests short and sweet.
“I sent an email out with three bullet points of what I needed and a quick turnaround for a response, asking for people to let me know if they could help out on this committee,” she said.
Within an hour Williams had 20 people respond that they would be willing to attend. Those are great results for a meeting that is voluntary and on personal time. The committee now has a strong average of 8 employees who gather to develop plans for their community garden, healthy cafeteria options and how to increase opportunities for physical activity.
“It has always been a practice of staff to walk the halls and meet while stretching their legs, and the wellness committee wanted to take walking meetings a step further,” she said. “ Each month the college has a campus roundtable, and the committee requested time to present our idea of walking meeting badges.”
Williams continued , “Sure, I could’ve just asked someone if we could buy badges and tell them our idea. But By presenting it at a roundtable, we were able to get the word out about the wellness committee and the work we were doing. It also helped when we asked for donations for the laminated pouches.”
Now, when employees meet, they check out lanyard badges to signify they are on a walking meeting. “It makes the meetings noticeable. And the word is spreading. Students even check them out with their study buddies and make walking laps around the halls or outdoors a habit,” she said.
Another benefit of collaborating with Partners in Healthy Living is attending the Community Leadership Team meetings. “We have been able to connect with FirstLight Health Systems for health screens, University of Minnesota Extension Program for cooking classes and many other connections that would not have happened unless we had our local SHIP work here with the Partners in Healthy Living. I am able to network and make community connections that I can take back to the campus,” said Williams.
Partners in Healthy Living provided funds for the University of Minnesota Extension Program to teach healthy cooking options for the grill vendors in the school cafe that serves students and staff. “The wellness team and the grill vendors applied for a mini-grant to support offering healthier options. It was a group effort and not school administration trying to dictate the grill selections,” Williams said.
By coordinating the classes with taste test sampling, a survey going out and a questionnaire during the sampling, data is getting captured and participants can have a voice in the process.
“I know I would have been much more panicked if I didn’t have the worksite wellness collaborative and the community leadership team to learn from, network and collaborate with, ” Williams claimed , but we know without intentional effort of a champion like Williams, committees don’t work to their full potential. Great work Laureen Williams and Pine Technical and Community College!