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Meramec Nurse Named 2019 Homegrown Hero

Meramec Elementary Nurse Caren Etling has been named the St. Louis District Dairy Council’s (SLDDC) 2019 Homegrown Hero for her commitment to making Meramec Elementary School a happier and healthier place for all students.


“I was very humbled by the award, especially since one of my peers, [Meramec Art Teacher] Beth Williams, nominated me,” said Etling. “I appreciate the SLDDC and the School District of Clayton staff, parents and students who have supported my efforts to promote the early exposure of young children to a variety of healthy foods, activities and opportunities to give back to the community.”


At Meramec Elementary, Etling is a champion for healthy eating. She creates fun opportunities and challenges for students to incorporate dairy, protein, fruits and vegetables into their lunch choices. Etling has also facilitated ongoing learning experiences such as grade level classes “adopting” a dairy cow through the SLDDC. Students get monthly photos and track the growth and life of “their cow.”


Thanks to the efforts of “Nurse Caren,” who leads the school’s Garden Club, Meramec's once untended school and science garden is now thriving. The garden feeds Meramec students and their families, cultivating connections between students and their food.


“Every Tuesday morning when I arrive at school, I walk past the Science lab where Caren hosts Garden Club. I smile as I am greeted with the laughter and the joy of our children,” said Williams. “I have worked with Caren on projects for our school garden and it is my pleasure to nominate Caren for this award, but Meramec Elementary School is truly the winner.”