FOR THE past 23 years, Chris Hawkersmith has been working tirelessly to help his students be the best that they can be, both mentally and physically. Now he is getting the opportunity to continue his mission of health and wellness on the biggest scale yet.
In his more than two decades with the Franklin County School System, Hawkersmith has served as a physical education teacher, administrator, and football coach.
He recently accepted the position of Coordinated School Health (CSH) coordinator, a position that Hawkersmith was both honored and excited to accept.
“My entire background for the first 16 years was in teaching physical education, along with health and wellness,” he explained. “I’ve always enjoyed that side of physical education and nutrition and how it affects learning and mental health. I’m excited to be back involved in health and physical education. I feel like I get to have a bigger part and do more with kids across the county.”
As coordinator, his responsibilities include ensuring all school system health initiatives and services, programs, and curriculums are effectively coordinated in order to build and sustain a healthy school environment for all students, faculty, and staff.
While this is only a fraction of his responsibilities as CSH coordinator, Hawkersmith said it all begins with taking care of the whole student. In order to accomplish this, Hawkersmith is now teamed up with Sheri Smith, the lead of counseling, psychological services, and social services in Franklin County; and Eric Vanzant, the Franklin County director of the Campora Family Resource Center. Together, the Coordinated School Health team can focus on all the needs of our students.
“There is a huge health epidemic among our students,” he explained. “We focus a lot around the health of students, because studies show that unhealthy and hungry students have a tougher time learning. We are focused on taking care of the whole child. A student’s physical, social, mental and physical well-being must come first, before grades. Children who are hungry, homeless, or suffering from mental health cannot thrive in the classroom. We are trying to take care of their needs, to make them successful in the classroom and in society.”
He is not alone in his mission. Assisting in helping each student be the best that they can be are the administrators, nurses, counselors, and teachers in each school.
“It is a big responsibility for us, but the great part is that individually, inside the schools, educators have the same mindset,” explained Hawkersmith. “I was an administrator for seven years. I know the principals, teachers, counselors, and nurses have the same mindset. These schools help bear a lot of these needs. In addition, they will contact us if they need additional resources.”
These additional resources will include working with community partnerships, such as Campora, the Prevention Coalition, the health department, and the recreation department. Hawkersmith said it will be Coordinated School Health’s mission to equip the schools with all the resources they need.
Also as CSH coordinator, the CSH team is responsible for developing and sustaining community, parent, and student partnerships.
In those efforts, they have plans for several events that will involve the community.
“We are also about promoting wellness and health for the entire community. We will be planning a 2 mile community walk where students, parents, and the community can get out and get moving together. CSH is focused on the promotion and implementation of a healthy lifestyle for everyone.” GN