Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Frank R. Kemerer, PhD, Chair; Zachary Gabriel Green, PhD, Member; Fred J. Galloway, EdD, Member


childhood Obesity, children & youth, health & wellness instruction, Leadership studies, low-income students, mental health, mixed-methodological study, physical activity, school administration, whole child model


Educators in the United States are expressing concern about student physical and mental well-being. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past three decades, and today, one in five children experiences symptoms of mental illness. Low-income children are especially subject to these conditions. The long-term consequences for the country as a whole are significant. Schools are particularly well placed to address these problems by supporting the well-being of the whole child. Efforts have begun in select schools and districts to incorporate health and wellness instruction into the school day. This study identifies existing health and wellness components that three participating Title I schools in one school district have incorporated into their health and wellness program. The study also examines how socioeconomically different students have responded both physically and psychologically to their school's program. Findings from this mixed-methodological study indicate socioeconomically different students physically and psychologically respond to health and wellness in three important ways. First, low-income students at participating schools evidenced parents and children collectively engaging in regular physical activity. Higher-income students also identified parents as physically active, but parent physical activity regularly occurred separate from the child. Second, although all students expressed dissatisfaction with school lunches, the way students responded varied by student socioeconomic status and caused concern for district personnel. Psychologically, low-income students identified personal experiences with on-campus bullying or interpersonal conflict while more affluent students spoke to such situations as third party observers, or said bullying is not a problem at their school. School district stakeholders recognize that differences in leadership, staff, and resources exist at participating schools and have created three different health and wellness programmatic models. School A maximizes staff and volunteer enthusiasm to promote physical wellness, School B offers district health and wellness components provided to all schools, and School C takes strides to support mental wellness. This study delineates the programmatic constructs and student physical and psychological responses at the three schools to highlight the importance of school-based health and wellness reform. The study also discusses the relationship of the three programs to the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies