By Michaela Gibson Morris
BLUE MOUNTAIN – Blue Mountain College and Blue Cross Blue Shield are teaming up to create a healthier campus culture.
On Friday, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi presented Blue Mountain College with a $200,000 grant to create an on-campus wellness center.
“We pledge to be good stewards of this investment,” said Blue Mountain College President Barbara McMillin during the Friday morning announcement to the student body. “This is something we would not have been able to do alone. It gives us an opportunity to accomplish one of our long-term planning goals” of enhancing campus culture.
The wellness center – which is expected to open for the Fall 2014 semester – will house fitness equipment, a walking track, space for group exercise programs and nutrition classes. The plans are to renovate an existing building on campus, McMillin said. The Board of Trustees is expected to finalize the location in February.
“It’s a huge need for the college,” said student body president Macy Watkins, a junior pre-med student. She also noted the closest fitness facilities are in Ripley or New Albany.
The foundation’s work with colleges and universities builds on a model developed at Delta State University in 2009, said Shelia Grogan, executive director for the BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi Foundation.
“We want to see a campus culture of health and wellness, with an emphasis on healthy eating and exercise that extends into the surrounding community and schools,” Grogan said.
The college has already partnered with a number of local employers, including the Town of Blue Mountain, Profile Manufacturing, Blue Mountain Production, Grisham Lumber Company, Massengill Trucking and Dirt Cheap that will be able to make memberships available to their employees, said Duane Bullard, college development officer.
Plans call to open the wellness center for individual membership as well, McMillin said.
The wellness center will also serve as a lab for exercise science students, who will have opportunities to serve as interns at the center, said Deena Elliott, Blue Mountain instructor of exercise science, who helped found the Tippah County Wellness Center years ago.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Elliott said.