After returning to her hometown to raise her family, Jessica Bauer Walker saw Western New York’s healthcare system through the lens of a parent. Once she learned that 48 percent of fifth graders in the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) were overweight, she knew it was time to spring into action.
As Vice President and Health Chairperson of the District Parent Coordinating Council, Jessica mobilized parents to participate in the writing of the first BPS Wellness Policy. She worked diligently to ensure parents’ and students’ voices were part of the policy creation. Jessica pushed to get recess back into the schools, and advocated until BPS hired 35 new Physical Education teachers so that children in grades K-3 would receive the required amount of PE time, nearly three times what they had been getting. She continued working with BPS to implement School Wellness Teams in each school, and worked with the Food Service Department to protect the Breakfast in the Classroom program.
Jessica’s work now continues in her role as Executive Director of CoNECT- Community Network for Engagement, Connection and Transformation, formerly the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo, where she serves as a critical bridge between parents, students, BPS and the public health sector on important issues.
For nearly a decade, Jessica has been a tireless advocate for the important role a school has when it comes to children’s health to how that positively impacts a community’s success. She approaches her work with heart and soul, empowering others to be the change they want to see.