As Brownsville Independent School District works to educate thousands of students, its Wellness Department strives to create a healthy and nurturing environment for employees. Created in the early 2000s, the department has grown dramatically to support the district’s physical, mental, and social well-being of workers.
Anisa Ramirez has been the director of the Brownsville ISD Wellness Department since 2012. Using a budget provided by the district, Ramirez creates and coordinates various voluntary wellness programs for employees. These programs feature a range of venues for physical fitness, stress relief, and group connections throughout the district.
“I know that not only exercise will help,” said Ramirez. “I want to make sure that our employees are aware of anything and everything to do with relieving their stress.”
For Brownsville ISD employees, the wellness programs are free of charge and follow a yearly calendar of scheduled events. Ramirez has widened the selection of programs throughout her tenure, recalling that options were limited when she first assumed her role as director.
“When I got here, I knew that the programs were too little for six thousand employees,” said Ramirez. “One size does not fit all.”
Among the programs created by Ramirez are courses in nutrition, gardening, crocheting, power walking, running, tennis, and pickleball. Each program relies on outside expertise, with the department recruiting instructors to manage its courses.
As the wellness programs have grown in popularity, some courses feature a maximum capacity of 25 participants to ensure group cohesion.
“We want to create a positive atmosphere,” said Ramirez. “They all get the attention they need.”
According to Ramirez, the wellness initiatives have prompted physical transformation throughout the district. Some employees have enjoyed substantial weight loss, while others have reported a reduction in their prescription medications.
Since the department invites participants from several Brownsville ISD campuses, the programs have also promoted social connectivity in the workforce. Ramirez recounts that relations among workers from separate campuses have improved, with employees now likelier to recognize their colleagues at interscholastic functions.
“We’ve built that camaraderie,” said Ramirez. “The employees feel like they’re part of something.”
In recent years, the department’s running team has drawn a particularly enthusiastic response from employees. Ramirez reports that participants in the program were challenged to advance their physical regimen.
“I just wanted to start with a 5K, but they surprised me,” said Ramirez. “After a while, it was too easy for them.”
The department responded to the needs of the employees, upgrading later programs to train participants for a 10K run. The team now includes seasoned runners with half- and full-marathon experience. With farther distances to travel, the running team utilizes public streets rather than indoor facilities. Ramirez credits the program instructor for motivating and inspiring participants to improve.
“She was a very uplifting and positive person,” said Ramirez. “I just didn’t expect how much more the team would want to run.”
The running program is one of many indications that morale has improved throughout the district. With an emphasis on the balance between mental and physical health, the Wellness Department has witnessed an uplifting transformation in the satisfaction of Brownsville ISD employees.
“It’s happier and more positive,” said Ramirez. “We need that for our brains – mental, physical, all of it. I want the whole package here, and that’s one of my goals.”