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BlueCross pledges $90K donation to Hillside youth program

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has announced it will donate $90,000 to Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection to teach students healthy habits. Pictured is Hillside’s Executive Director Wayne O’Connor, left, and BlueCross regional president Arthur Vercillo, right, with students who participate in the program.

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield has announced it will donate $90,000 to Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection to teach students healthy habits. Pictured is Hillside’s Executive Director Wayne O’Connor, left, and BlueCross regional president Arthur Vercillo, right, with students who participate in the program. Joe Genco

Excellus BlueCross BlueShield announced today it will make a $90,000 donation to Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection as a part of a three-year program to teach Syracuse students healthy habits.

Hillside’s executive director Wayne O’Connor was joined by BlueCross’ regional president Arthur Vercillo and Syracuse Superintendent of Schools Sharon Contreras in making the announcement today at the Hillside center in Syracuse.

“We are extremely fortunate to have had great community partners that collaborate with us to invest in our youth believing in their great potential just as we do. Our partnership with Excellus BlueCross BlueShield is a strong example of such a collaboration,” O’Connor said.

The money will help Hillside launch Healthy Mind/Healthy Body, a program designed to make improvements to Hillside’s kitchen area where students learn cooking skills and its community garden, which includes vegetables that students cook and eat. Hillside will also collaborate with Syracuse University to teach students the importance of healthy eating and activity and will improve its athletic facilities.

Contreras stressed the importance of students learning health habits in light of the nation’s obesity problem.

“Clearly childhood obesity is quickly becoming a U.S. health problem. In the last 30 years the obesity rate has more than tripled in adolescents age 12 to 19 years old,” Contreras said. “Through your financial commitment and support of the Health Mind/Health Body program here at Hillside you will help to reverse this very dangerous trend.”

Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection is a dropout prevention program that serves more than 900 Syracuse City School District students in grades seven through twelve. The program is in its 25th year and provides students with programs after school and on the weekends that help them develop good habits, do well in school and become responsible young adults.

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