Teen Leaders Learn Nutrition, Leadership in Healthy Living Program

Jessica Stroope, Bogren, Richard C.  |  2/17/2017 6:27:32 PM

Jessica Stroope

National 4-H Healthy Living grants provide funding for Louisiana pro­gramming, and more than 8,500 kids have been reached through these grants during the 2015-2016 year. Grant require­ments help keep programming centered on the essential: a minimum of six direct contact hours with kids, nutrition educa­tion and physical activity, and tapping in to teens as teachers for younger partic­ipants. Parishes can implement healthy living grants in a variety of ways. This year, parish projects have included cook­ing clubs, school gardens, Yoga for Kids, food insecurity awareness and advocacy projects, a food preservation mini-camp and outdoor adventure camps.

There were 520 4-H’ers who served as teen leaders in the healthy living programs during the 2015-2016 year. Of that number, 233 were evaluated using the national 4-H evaluation instrument Common Measures, which uses a five-point Likert scale with responses ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly dis­agree.” Results show that teen leaders tend to apply the nutrition lessons they teach to younger kids to their own lives, with 89.7 percent of teen leaders report­ing increased intake of fruits and vege­tables, 76.8 percent reporting increased intake of whole grains, and 91.4 percent of teen leaders reporting drinking more water.

Not only do the teens make improve­ments in their nutritional habits, they also grow as leaders. Results of the evalu­ation show that 95 percent of teen lead­ers serving on grant projects report that because of their experience on the proj­ect, they have increased confidence in themselves and increased confidence in helping others, and that they can make a difference in their communities through community service. While 75 percent of teen leaders reported being interested in pursuing a health-related careers, others found their calling through the experi­ence of teaching.

Following are testimonials about the value of teen leaders to the 4-H program:

"It is important to incorporate teen teachers in programs in 4-H because the younger generation looks up to us and wants to do what we do."

Alexis Cole, a teen leader from Avoyelles Parish

"It is rewarding to work with teen leaders. They not only bring new ideas to the table but are constantly reinventing themselves as they are always ready to do whatever we ask them to do. I have personally seen them grow as leaders, from shy to outgoing, from not ready to speak in front of peers to shine in front of anyone."

Adriana Drusini, 4-H agent in St. Mary Parish

"Teaching kids has inspired me far more than I have inspired them. They are so full of joy. Through working with kids I have learned that I want a career with children. They make my day every time. They just put a certain energy around you that you can’t get anywhere else."

Kennedi Williams, a teen leader from St. Mary Parish

Jessica Stroope is a Healthy Living extension associate.

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