Buffalo Grove HS Self-Empowerment Program Receives National Award
Buffalo Grove High School's 'Elevate' program recently received the National Program of the Year Award from John Underwood, the founder of nationally renowned self-empowerment program, Human Performance Project/Life of an Athlete (HPP/LOA). The award was presented to the group at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York.
Given annually, the National Program of the Year Award recognizes a high school program that implements HPP/LOA with quality, and serves as a shining example for schools nationwide to live a healthy physical and mental lifestyle, exhibit a strong character, and have a commitment to excellence.
"Elevate at Buffalo Grove High School has created a unique student-driven program that gives youth the opportunity to join together in encouraging one another to live a positive lifestyle, and to make a joint commitment to live life at their highest potential," Underwood said.
While presenting the award, Underwood acknowledged Buffalo Grove High School administration, including the heads of athletic and activities programs for their leadership in supporting the students to form Elevate. Additionally, he highlighted the Link Together Coalition, a community organization whose mission is to promote healthy communities through empowering youth to make positive choices and being drug and alcohol free, by providing education, advocacy, community resources and policy awareness.
Modeled after Underwood's programs, Elevate was founded in the fall of 2016 -- a year after he made a presentation to coaches and students at the Buffalo Grove High School about the importance of a young person's life decisions in regard to growth, development and future success. Link Together facilitated Underwood's presentation, and helped to fund Elevate's trip to Lake Placid, where Underwood's annual HPP/LOA conference is based.
Empowering students to create a positive culture and to make constructive long-term decisions regarding healthy eating and sleeping habits, in addition to abstaining from drug and alcohol use, are core goals of the program. Elevate has made many strides since attending the Lake Placid conference in 2016.
Working with District 214 cafeteria coordinators, Elevate's first initiative was to create a brown bag snack program, which mapped out healthy food choices for student snacks. Members of the group also created a pledge, obtaining nearly 200 commitments from other students; these included both individual and team creeds to formalize their commitment to self, sport and teammates.
The group has also made presentations in front of high school staff, coaches and the freshman class at orientation. Additionally, they have hosted social events that promote positive messaging, and have visited Wheeling Township middle schools to communicate their mission to more than 300 students.
Elevate member Jacqueline Bickhaus said she initially joined the program believing she was more likely to thrive and succeed if she was surrounded by others with the same morals and mindset as her own.
"One of our goals as a group this year is to continue to positively influence our overall culture; not only as a team or school, but as a community," Bickhaus says. "Having won Program of the Year, all of us in Elevate are motivated to work even harder and continue to positively impact our school, and our community."
For more information about Link Together Coalition, please visit linktogethercoalition.org.
Link Together Coalition works in support with their fiscal agent, nonprofit OMNI Youth Services, and empowers Wheeling Township middle and high school students to be drug and alcohol free. These populations are provided with education, advocacy, access to community resources, and policy awareness. The organization's prevention programming is made possible by grants from the Illinois Department of Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) and Drug Free Communities.
Link Together Coalition serves Wheeling Township including portions of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and Wheeling.