Penn State Schuylkill's Lion Pulse Health Champions

Penn State Schuylkill's Lion Pulse Health Champions stand for a photo. From left to right: Joe Godri, director of athletics; Linda MacDuff, assistant director of food services; Cindy Ebling, coordinator of health services; Rosanne Chesakis, library supervisor; and Marianne Adam, program coordinator and associate teaching professor of nursing.

Image: Samantha L. Bower

Schuylkill receives grant to help campus community make better health choices

Cindy Ebling had never written a grant before. But on her first day as Penn State Schuylkill’s coordinator of health services, she was introduced to the LionPulse health initiative. This new initiative promotes lifelong health choices and also offers grant funds to campus “Health Champions,” who are charged with coordinating various health programs for Penn State communities across the commonwealth. So, LionPulse called for grant proposals, offering awards of up to $5,000. Ebling answered the call.

The first thing Ebling did was form a wellness committee. She called for “Health Champions” across campus and formed a team of committed health advocates. Penn State Schuylkill’s Health Champion committee includes Marianne Adam, associate teaching professor of nursing; Rosanne Chesakis, library supervisor; Valerie Clay, associate director of student affairs; Jerry Cresswell, facilities manager; Cindy Ebling, coordinator of health services; Joe Godri, director of athletics; Linda MacDuff, assistant director of food services; Bryan Valentine, director of student affairs and engagement; and Stephanie Wood, director of budget and finance operations.

Together, the committee identified the need to employ nutrition and smoking cessation training across campus. Ebling began her tenure at Schuylkill in September 2018, a short time before Penn State University enacted its new smoke- and tobacco-free policy. Despite Penn State’s new smoking ban, Schuylkill’s LionPulse committee noticed many students struggling to step away from electronic cigarettes and vape pens. And as the Health Champions passed by students in the campus’s Hidden Stream Café and chatted with others in passing, they grew concerned about their food choices.

To kick off this new initiative, LionPulse project manager Kara Bowers and project coordinator Angela Schlegel introduced campus Health Champions to the requirements for the grant. Up to $5,000 was available for each campus, provided the Health Champions offered a comprehensive explanation of and plans for implementing their LionPulse programming. Ebling had never written a grant before, but still, she crafted the best proposal she could. Then she waited…nervously.

But her hard work paid off. While other campuses submitted several iterations of their grant proposals, Ebling’s initial submission was accepted without incident. She and the rest of the committee proposed several healthful programs – some taught by nutritionists, others taught by chefs, and all focusing on a healthy diet. Some of these workshops will teach food safety, and some will help guide students as they buy and cook food.

To assist smokers in smoking cessation, the committee proposed classes that review the benefits of quitting smoking, offer tips to help smokers kick the habit, and include a takeaway bag complete with a toothbrush, tooth paste, and even nicotine gum.

Most facets of Schuylkill’s LionPulse programming are inexpensive to implement, though the grant funds are especially helpful in procuring items like nicotine gum and fruit for the new “Fruit of the Month,” part of the nutrition programming where students are given a free piece of in-season fruit along with an explanation of what makes it so healthful.

But beyond the “low hanging fruit” mentioned above, part of the grant funds are earmarked to install permanent markers along a walking trail that will be coming to campus soon. Though the walking trail will be funded through different means, the committee feels that the trail markers will be a nice complement to the project while also affording the opportunity to speak about the LionPulse program and its initiatives. Ebling hopes that this walking trail enhancement will help promote a healthier campus while assisting walkers in tracking their mileage.

The LionPulse initiative aims to revive employee and student health programming throughout the University and is funded through Penn State’s Strategic Plan seed grants. LionPulse coordinators aspire for the program to act as an exemplar and positive influence on not only Penn State’s students, faculty and staff, but also the communities the University serves.

Once the program was established and funded, Penn State’s PRO Wellness Center worked to disburse the funds to campus Health Champions. These Health Champions are meant to function as a network of wellness warriors, impacting population health across the commonwealth. For more information on the LionPulse program, visit sites.psu.edu/lionpulse.

Clementines are January’s “Fruit of the Month,” because they are in-season and have myriad health benefits, such as their high fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C content. Which fruit can we expect to enjoy in February? To find out, put out your cigarette and come inside for the next round of nutrition programming. Our Health Champions will be happy to fill you in.