Jeff Stromgren

Michael BrighamMDI Champions


Jeff Stromgren

School District 43
Coquitlam, BC

I’m the District Coordinator for Community Connections and Healthy Living in School District 43, which serves Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody and the Villages of Anmore and Belcarra in British Columbia. After 15 years as a teacher, this role coordinating community development projects has proven itself challenging and professionally rewarding. Through investment in the MDI for Grades 4 and 7, and support for this position, SD43 has demonstrated that building healthy communities is integral to the education process. The MDI data gives our communities the insight required to make evidence based decisions for our neighbourhoods that are reflective of the wants and needs of children in them. I’m a strong advocate for the rights of children, and I believe the MDI is the best tool for listening to the voices of children and putting those voices to work in their neighbourhoods. I stay busy with work and my family of four, but still find time for running and cycling on BCs forested trails for fitness and fun.


Champions supporting other Champions

How has your perspective on the middle years changed over time?
I knew inherently as a coach of football or rugby that we were doing good work for kids, but it wasn't until I started to look at the research behind connectivity and happiness that I saw just how much it helped to set kids up for success in the graduation program in British Columbia. The concept that Social Connectivity in their middle years is the best indicator of student achievement in their high school years resonates with me now that I have completed five years of work in this role. Being intentional about connecting kids to people in their neighbourhoods in times when they otherwise might not be getting the attention they deserve has become my passion. I have learned that if you ask kids what they want to do, listen to them, and work for them to get those things into their lives, they will respond and the outcomes will be noticeable!
What has your local MDI data highlighted for you? How have you been able to make use of your data?
The first thing the MDI does is give us categories for community development. The five dimensions (Social and Emotional Development, Physical Health and Well-Being, Connectedness, Use of After-School Time and School Experiences) provide a framework for building a scope of work. Within these categories, there is a place for all people in our schools (teachers, parents, kids) as well as the community at large (non-profits, business, citizens) to have a role in shaping well-being. Using the data to determine what kids are looking for after school was a great starting place for us. Using the index to see what kids want, what they were doing and what they wanted to do was important in determining what kinds of programs we should keep, who we should pursue to partner with us, and what kinds of things we could initiate in one neighbourhood or another. We aligned SD43 after-school programming with the wishes of children and parents (by way of school surveys). From a 2013 MDI data set, we found that just over 50% of kids were doing what they wanted to be doing after school in our district. So we asked them what they wanted to be doing, got our answers, responded by building partnerships that supported these desires, and by 2017 the same population reporting that they we doing what they wanted after school had increased to 80%.
If you could share one piece of advice about how to connect and engage with people around middle years issues, what would it be?
Find the willing. Look into the neighbourhoods and find out who has been trying to help and engage them. Listen to their ideas, work on the five areas presented in the MDI framework, and arrive at shared responsibility community projects that support the children and their well-being. Use the most concrete information like data on nutrition and sleep to start a conversation. Find out from others what they are passionate about and attach their passions to the MDI. Remember, anything that involves connecting kids to a significant adult, to other kids, or to their own feelings can be a step in working with MDI data.
When thinking about your own job or role, how do you think it allows you to make change?
In my first 4 years of this coordinator role I focused on two areas of the MDI: After School Time and Connectedness. Once I had developed ways of addressing these areas, I expanded into Physical Health and Well Being. We were able to find a lot of people in our schools and in our communities who were already looking for ways to help improve student overall health. We could leverage our district communications systems, our spaces, and our materials-distribution infrastructure to spearhead a few well thought-ut programs and information campaigns that affect the well-being of kids.  In addition to getting help from non-profit groups with the mandate to engage children and youth, we were able to work closer in this regard with our municipal partners in recreation and our regional health authority to work at a coordinated effort for improving the health of our communities. Access to community assets that are not necessarily property of the school district became much more regular as a result.  
What’s your current project or next adventure?
My next project is working with our partners at ScopeBC to develop a survey that will help us collect additional school-based data on healthy living habits of children. It is exciting to bring partners together to see how we can improve the lives of children and improve the flow of information for schools and parents alike.

Jeff Stromgren’s Resources