Arya Pontula is a 16-year-old Alliance for a Healthier Generation All Star from Apex, NC. She is a member of the School Health Advisory Council at Enloe High School and the president and founder of the Healthy Initiatives Club, which works to implement healthy initiatives school-wide.
We’ve all had that one teacher who we will never forget, who opened the world for us through experience and who cloaked learning in excitement. Teachers have that power. They show us the beauty and expanse of the world, and they inspire us to go out and change it.
When it comes to improving school health, teachers and students can have a significant influence. Teachers and students spend much of their time at school, making it an ideal place to support both staff and student health. I believe the best way to do that is by focusing on the teacher-student relationship and what we can achieve, together.
The teacher-student bond is a unique and powerful one. Teachers serve as mentors, empowering students with skills such as leadership, communication and perseverance that craft us into independent agents of change. When given the right guidance and encouragement, students can accomplish amazing things. We can start movements, implement far-reaching initiatives, and affect real change. And it all starts with one inspiring teacher.
For me, that unforgettable teacher is my biology teacher Ms. Welty. When I founded the Healthy Initiatives Club at my school two years ago and asked Ms. Welty to be my advisor, I had no idea what we could accomplish. While we initially faced obstacles like low attendance, Ms. Welty and I stayed positive and decided to see what change we could make, together.
Since then, Enloe High School has become one of the first high schools in Wake County to enroll in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program. We were awarded the Student Health Advocate Award by the superintendent of Wake County and Advocates for Health in Action, and have initiated changes to ensure school-wide access to clean drinking water and USDA-compliant snacks.
My story is proof that when students and teachers work together, creating a healthier school is easy. With this partnership, we have the power to change not just our schools, but the world. That’s why this Teacher Appreciation Week I’m proud to #ThankATeacher like Ms. Welty who is helping create a healthier next generation, one student at a time.