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Ground breaking held for UTTC Wellness Center
15 April 2005

BISMARCK (UTN) - A health and wellness initiative among the campus community of United Tribes Technical College took a giant step forward April 15 with groundbreaking for a Wellness Center.

      College officials and dignitaries turned ceremonial shovels of soil for a two-story, 19,000 square foot building that will become the focal point of a campus wellness program initiated three years ago.

Groundbreaking ceremony
Dr. Linda Gourneau (Three Affiliated) turns a shovel during groundbreaking April 15 for a $2.7 million Wellness Center at United Tribes Technical College. Gourneau will direct the college's new department of Community Wellness Services. Looking on, from left, Sisseton-Wahpeton Chairman J. C. Crawford, UTTC President David M. Gipp and Standing Rock Chairman Charles W. Murphy.

      "This campus is a learning environment," said David M. Gipp, UTTC President. "Our goal is to integrate health and wellness into the everyday life of the campus community and the people we serve."

      The effort was motivated, in part, because of evidence of deterioration in the health of American Indians, especially in the Great Plains. According to Gipp, the devastating effects of obesity and poor nutrition are seen especially in American Indian children and youth.

      "Students come here from communities that experience serious health challenges like heart disease, diabetes, suicide, and alcohol and drug abuse," said Gipp. "We have a responsibility to assess and improve their overall health. Programs like this in school and work settings have contributed to improved learning, better test scores, lower rates of absenteeism and improved productivity."

      The 2002 wellness initiative was built on the success of individual health and wellness projects underway at the college. A group known as the campus Wellness Circle formed a long-range plan to integrate existing efforts with new activities.

      "There's an expectation that participants will make choices to live a healthy lifestyle," said Gipp. "Native people think of the whole person, including our emotional, mental and spiritual well being, as well as the physical."

      When completed in 2006, over 1,000 students, staff, faculty and children at UTTC will have campus-based access to the new facility. Dr. Linda Gourneau will direct the new department, Community Wellness Services.

      Services will combine mainstream wellness practices with those of the native wellness movement. Included will be health screenings, physical fitness planning, alternative healing education, chemical awareness training, spiritual guidance, cultural awareness, diet and nutrition education, smoking cessation classes, stress management and wellness research.

      The U.S. Department of Education, USDA Rural Development, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Prior Lake, MN, and the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provided funding for the new building. Construction is set to begin soon.

      The groundbreaking ceremony was the culminating event of the college's annual wellness week. Using the theme "Healthy Lifestyles Strengthen Communities," activities included a wellness fair, healthy meals and snacks, wellness walks including a benefit walk for Cystic Fibrosis, yoga classes, demonstrations of strength and fitness, healing talks, and personal wellness consultations.


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