Louisiana 4-H’er wins national Heart Association award

Atlanta High School 4-H student Caroline Whisonant receives a national award from Jill Lacero of the American Heart Association at the Winn Parish School Board meeting on Oct. 7. Caroline won the award for a campaign she organized to heighten awareness among students and faculty at her school about heart health that results from eating healthy foods, not smoking and exercising. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

Caroline Whisonant, second from the right, a 4-H’er from Winn Parish, recently received the American Heart Association’s national Young Heart Leadership Award. From left to right are Karen Shirley, Winn Parish LSU AgCenter 4-H agent; Carolyn Lang, Atlanta High School junior 4-H leader; Janet Fox, associate department head, LSU AgCenter 4-H Youth Development; Jill Lacero, youth marketing director, American Heart Association; Caroline Whisonant; and Steve Bartlett, Winn Parish schools superintendent. (Photo by Bruce Schultz)

News Release Distributed 10/11/13

WINNFIELD, La. – An 11-year-old 4-H Club member in Winn Parish has won a national award from the American Heart Association for her service-learning project that involved her entire school in a healthful living program.

Caroline Whisonant, a sixth-grader at Atlanta High School, received the Young Heart Leadership Award Monday night (Oct. 7) during the Winn Parish School Board meeting. The school serves students Pre-K through 12th-grade.

“I had a great grandfather, and he smoked, and he had heart disease,” Caroline said, explaining how she got the idea for the campaign. “I got a committee together, and we thought of different ideas to tell people how bad smoking is and how to eat healthy food and exercise.”

The program involved several activities. On Valentine’s Day, the committee organized a “Jump Rope for Heart” event and raised more than $1,090 for the Heart Association.

At a “Red Out Day,” the school’s students wore red shirts, and blood pressure tests were conducted on the faculty and staff. Heart-friendly snacks were made available one day as alternatives to the food in the vending machines, which were closed for the day.

Posters with heart-related facts were hung throughout the school, and information about heart health was announced over the school’s public address system. Students took pledges to have a healthy heart.

The school nurse taught students how to use cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and a defibrillator.

“At an administrative meeting, we all gave out heart-healthy pamphlets and heart-healthy cookbooks and really touched their lives. And we helped a lot of people,” Caroline said.

Others also pitched in. Caroline enlisted 4-H Club staff advisor Carolyn Lang as her adult mentor as well as school counselor Bob Jordan, Winn Parish school nurses Christy Hall and Gail Kelly, and school Principal Bridgette Bartlett.

Members of the Jump Rope for Heart/Go Red Committee, from grades four through six, included Lindsey Davidson, Tequilla Coolman, Madison Collins, Makayla Savoy, Kira Raymond, Rayna Tilton, Luke Jordan, Ro’Shonna Powell, Meghan Hale, Cheyanne Admire, Beyoncé Goff, Anyonia Sapp, R’Tisha Phillips, Leah Moore, Alissa Coolman, Kaitlyn Turner and Teonna Powell.

Committee members gave up their recesses to plan the events.

Keeping track of the events and who would carry out the tasks required organization. “The committee had a chart and we had a folder we kept,” Caroline said.

After the project was over, Caroline said, she was pleased with the outcome. “It surprised me about how many people understood about heart disease and how they started eating healthy and exercising.”

Working on the project made her and her family aware of healthful living, she said. “Today I still eat healthy and so does everybody else in my family.”

Caroline said to celebrate, her parents took her to eat at a local steak restaurant. She had a salad.

For exercise, she runs cross-country. “My goal is to beat my last time,” she said.

That Caroline won a national award really didn’t surprise the LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Winn Parish, Karen Shirley.

“She’s just a crackerjack for her age,” Shirley said. “She’s just so energetic, and she’s a pleasure to be around. It really doesn’t matter where she is, she can fit into any group.”

Caroline plans to start a Jump Rope for Heart event at Winnfield Middle School this year.

Caroline has another project that will start soon, Shirley said – helping the elderly in a nursing home by holding twist dance classes and applying fingernail polish to the women at the facility.

Bruce Schultz
10/12/2013 12:05:08 AM
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