Success Story

New Ulm Catholic Schools

Promoting physical and emotional wellness for all as part of its mission

New Ulm Catholic Schools employees partnered with Peggy Kropinksi, manager at McDonald’s in New Ulm (shown holding upper right corner of poster) to learn how to make healthful choices at McDonald’s. Kropinski provided weekly treats as incentives, such as apple walnut salads, yogurt parfaits and oatmeal and NUACS employees have been purchasing these healthy treats ever since!

New Ulm Catholic Schools: Promoting physical and emotional wellness for all as part of its mission New Ulm Catholic Schools is deeply rooted in the community with a 140-year history and a clear mission and vision that guides its work. “Our mission is to develop the whole person spiritually, intellectually, physically, emotionally and socially,” said Peter Roufs, principal at Cathedral High School and chair of the wellness committee for New Ulm Area Catholic Schools. “We work to extend this vision to our students and staff.”

A five-year member of the school staff, Roufs joined New Ulm Catholic Schools in 2008. His nine-member wellness committee includes himself, the school nurse, food service director and health and physical education teachers and staff members. Focused on school nutrition and education, they work together to coordinate activities and distribute health and wellness information to the 512 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students, staff members and parents, and make school fundraising recommendations that align with the school’s wellness goals.

“Physical and emotional wellness is part of our mission, so the committee’s work helps support what we do. It’s part of developing the whole person,” continued Roufs. “If someone feels good about the healthful choices they make, it will affect the other areas of his or her life, too. We are a small enough community that we can also offer wellness resources to our staff and share health and nutrition information with our parents.”

Roufs joined New Ulm Catholic Schools the same year that the Heart of New Ulm Project was introduced into the larger New Ulm community. “Prior to the Heart of New Ulm, the main focus was on the wellness of our students,” explained Roufs. “The project has really helped us broaden our goals and bring overall wellness issues to the forefront in the minds of our staff. Prior to participation in the project, there wasn’t an organized plan in place. We feel blessed that we now have additional resources.”

Among its 70 staff members, New Ulm Catholic Schools has a 40 to 50 percent participation rate in its wellness activities. An initial worksite screening in 2009 helped them take a look at their overall health and determine where improvements could be made. In 2011, staff members participated in the HONU’s Worksite on the Move program, where they met once a week to map out and travel a new walking path, and for the past two years they have been motivated through the Holiday Trimmings program.

“In our first year of participation in Holiday Trimmings, our staff members lost a total of 500 pounds,” said Roufs. “Our results weren’t as dramatic this year, but what was important was how everyone continued to work together to encourage, motivate and support each other.”

Throughout the year, Roufs and the school wellness committee provide school staff with information and resources such as HONU educational materials, reimbursement for all or part of various community run and walk participation fees, and distribution of incentives such as bottled water, fruit and vegetable treats, yogurt parfaits and other promotional items.

“The Heart of New Ulm’s information and materials have made it easier for us to provide quality wellness programs,” said Roufs. “Everyone has personal wellness missions they have made for themselves and the project has made a way for us to help support our teachers and staff as they work toward their goals.”