Getting a group of high school students excited about anything, much less fueling their bodies with healthy nutrients, and getting at least sixty minutes of physical activity a day, is a tall task. At Synergy High School in East Hartford, Connecticut this is exactly what has occurred though thanks to an amazing partnership with their local dairy council and the national Fuel Up organization. 

All Synergy students review their healthy meal consumption and minutes of physical activity on a weekly basis. Advisory teachers alongside PE/Health/Science teachers help students set weekly goals to improve their numbers. Across the school, this has had a major impact over the past three years. Baseline data tells a story of students who average less than 2 healthy breakfasts a week prior to participating in the program. After only a few weeks, the average is 3 healthy breakfasts a week and after a year, students averaged over 4 breakfasts a week. Besides impacting student eating habits, prior to participating in the program, students had, on average, less than 200 minutes a week of physical activity. After participating for a few weeks, students increased by nearly 60 additional minutes and after a few months, students averaged over 300 minutes. 

Craig Outhouse, Ed.D., Synergy principal, talks of how Fuel Up isn’t just a partnership but rather a necessary skill his students must learn. “Rather than just telling students one more thing they need to do or highlighting something they are not doing, at Synergy we are committed to leading students down the path of self-discovery; teaching them how to help themselves. Fuel Up is a program that teaches this. It is not a stretch to suggest this program is saving student’s lives.” Through this partnership, Synergy has received grants to purchase items such as blenders for smoothies and pizza ovens to prepare healthy snacks for students. Additionally, grant money was awarded to buy physical education equipment for expanding fitness options at Synergy High School. 

Ally Vess, Synergy Science Teacher and three-time program advisor talks of how the Fuel Up curriculum has changed her teaching experience. “Students are actually interested in my lessons; they want to know how the food they are putting into their bodies are influencing them. They shine best when they are able to share what they have learned with others.” Prior to COVID, students were regularly visiting local elementary schools to run Fuel Up events that included sharing smoothies, physical activity stations, and other wellness exposure. These student leaders found a way to have a positive impact on their community while fueling their bodies in a healthy way. Over the next few months, we will slowly and safely be returning our students back into these schools.