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RebelWell has grown from a wellness site to much more

Andrea Jekabsons, University of Mississippi assistant director for employment, development and engagement, relocated from Northern California 10 years ago and now considers Oxford home.

Jekabsons leads the RebelWell program on the UM campus. The campus and community wellness program is designed to support employees, students, and the larger Lafayette-Oxford community as they adopt and sustain behaviors that reduce health risks, improve quality of life and enhance personal effectiveness.

“RebelWell, formerly HealthWorks, began as a worksite wellness program,” said Jekabsons. “Wellness programs often benefit the organization’s bottom line because the employee’s quality of life is improved.

“The program promotes awareness and education, provides motivation for positive behavior changes, and influences campus practices and policy to support a healthy environment.

“It continues to grow and is now a collaborative partnership of campus resources with the goal of helping our community along the path to a vibrant, healthy and balanced lifestyle.”

Jekabsons said campus programs are available to faculty, staff and students. RebelWell is also partnering with a few community outreach programs, including the UM Museum, Division of Outreach, and Athletics to provide programs to community members.  Most programs are free.

Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation recently donated $326,000 to the university for new health and wellness programs on campus and in the community and is sponsoring the Run Oxford Mighty Half and 5k on Feb. 20.

“We will be offering a men’s health event later this year,” she said. “We are excited to work with both school districts to offer an educators’ fitness challenge this spring.”

Another ongoing program includes “Yoga in the Gallery” offered at the University Museum on Monday mornings at 8 a.m. RebelWell is also involved with a “Recipe Make-Over” seminar, a wellness-related book club, Saturday morning “LOU on The Move” fitness opportunities and cooking demonstrations.

“HealthWorks, the worksite wellness program, was launched over a decade ago,” said Jekabsons. “Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation approached the university with an opportunity for a health and wellness grant that would allow for the program to grow and include the surrounding community.

“The university continues to make strides in creating a wellness culture by developing and implementing programs promoting and advancing health, nutrition, exercise, and individual wellness on campus and in the community of Lafayette County to include the two school districts.”

Jekabsons said she hopes each participant learns more and establishes healthy habits and routines. This includes discovering a fitness activity that he/she enjoys, choosing healthier food options most of the time, and staying up to date with screenings.

About LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker is a writer, reporter and adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she spent a decade at the Gannett-owned Clarion-Ledger - Mississippi's largest daily newspaper - covering stories about crime, city government, civil rights, social justice, religion, art, culture and entertainment for the paper's print and web editions. She was also a USA Today contributor.

This year, she received a first place award from the Mississippi Press Association for “Best In-Depth Investigative Reporting.” The story written in 2014 for The Oxford Eagle chronicles the life of a young mother with two sons who have epilepsy, and details how she is patiently hoping legalized cannabis oil experimentation will lead to a cure for their disorder.

Her website is www.lareecarucker.com.

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