Outcomes for Horizons at Colorado Academy are often reported in gains in reading and math scores after each summer’s six-week program. Tougher to measure, but arguably just as important, are the outcomes from lessons taught to children about nutrition, exercise, and taking care of their bodies.
For the past two summers, Colorado Academy alumna Anna Schwartz ’13, now a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, has worked with Lower School Horizons students to teach them about the fundamentals of health and wellness. “This can build strong foundations for healthy lifestyles that they carry throughout their lives,” says Schwartz.
“Students hear all the time about eating fruits and vegetables, but what does that look like in practice?” she says. Each week this past summer, Schwartz provided Horizons Fourth Graders with lessons about health and nutrition. She combined that with hands–on, interactive activities, encouraging students to practice those newly learned skills outside of the classroom, including in CA’s Dining Hall, but also at home with their families.
And Schwartz says she learned just as much from her students, including how a child’s relationship with food is defined by access to fresh foods, the dynamic of multi-generational families in a single household, and the importance of authentic ethnic foods made with a variety of ingredients. “Culturally, I have had to tailor my teaching,” she says. “I have learned so much.” Fourth Grade teacher Lea Ziegler says the learning went both ways. “From the first day, students were connected and engaged not only with Anna, but with the content she was teaching.” And, says Ziegler, “Her lessons on mindfulness were transformative for our classroom community.”
‘Building a compassionate and caring community’
Schwartz also worked with Horizons Upper School girls on the subjects of body image, the influence of social media, societal pressure to look a certain way, and self-love. Her focus was on moderate and varied food choices, creating a balanced eating and exercise lifestyle, and recognizing signs of unhealthy relationships with food. Says Schwartz, “By educating and discussing these challenges of body insecurities as a group, students felt encouraged to share what they love about each other, building a compassionate and caring community at a critical time of growth for high school-aged students.”
That work closely aligns with Schwartz’s current nutrition counseling work at Paramount Health Directions, a multi-disciplinary mental health practice in Denver. She is also in graduate school, working toward her master’s degree in nutrition. After CA, Schwartz graduated magna cum laude from Texas Christian University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition within the Coordinated Program in Dietetics. She is also a certified yoga sculpt instructor and uses the mindfulness and exercise of yoga in her practice and with students.
A decade of commitment
Schwartz has been working with Horizons in one capacity or another for the past decade. As a CA student, she volunteered with the summer program at age 14, helping to teach reading, swimming, and library skills, and her parents, Steven Schwartz and Stephanie Sullivan-Schwartz, were active supporters of the program, too.
“CA made it clear you can always give, and you can always help. Giving back to the school that gave me a lot feels great. It’s feels like it has come full circle,” Schwartz declares. With full-time work, summers at Horizons, and graduate school, Schwartz is busy but still wants to take time to help others. Her dream would be able to work with all 150 Horizons students to provide education, resources, or just to answer questions about nutrition. And she says, questions from the CA community are welcome! For questions or information about nutrition counseling, she can be reached at email@example.com.