Penny A. Ralston and Camille Lewis
The 2022 cohort of Youth Health Leadership (YHL) recently partnered with the Tallahassee Earth Day Festival to promote environmental health and sustainability.
Under the leadership of Camille Lewis, the purpose of the Earth Day Festival was to bring community together and provide them with practical and informative exhibits, activities, and workshops centered around sustainability. In total, over 500 people attended the event, held on April 23 in conjunction with the global Earth Day celebration.
The YHL members, who participated in the Festival to fulfill their Collaborative Project for the program, served as a vendor and provided an interactive exhibit on “People for the Planet” to demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between the natural environment and people’s health.
The exhibit was in two parts: A children’s table that included a hands-on activity to build an urban garden and materials on Earth Day and how to prepare flavored water using fruit and herbs. The adult table provided a discussion on basic facts on Earth Day, current environmental and sustainability issues, and executable ideas to create change in the community.
Commenting on the project and partnership with YHL, Lewis stated, “We are so thankful that YHL came out to the Earth Day celebration. Watching these young leaders in action was confirmation that the future of our planet is in good hands.” The purpose of Youth Health Leadership, now in its10th year, is to engage youth ages 14-18 in promoting and improving health and wellness through education and action in Tallahassee/Leon County.
Thirteen youth were selected for the 2022 Cohort. “We are delighted to have such a talented cohort of youth who creatively planned and implemented a dynamic interactive exhibit to promote the relationship of environmental health and sustainability. The partnership with the Earth Day Festival is a testimony to this cohort’s understanding of the purpose of Earth Day and young people’s role in protecting our environment, remarked Penny Ralston, director and FSU professor.
Earth’s Garden is a community-based organization that empowers individuals and families to grow their own food. It was founded in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and since its inception, Ms. Lewis has installed gardens in homes, churches, and schools; arming hundreds of individuals with the knowledge and skills to grow their own food.
Established by Childhood Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE), YHL includes a three phase curriculum: 1) Trainings (four interactive content sessions: total health, eating healthy, physical activity and health justice), 2) Application Rotation (community internship) that involves shadowing a health professional or performing service learning, and 3) Collaborative Project in partnership with a community organization.
Through YHL, youth can increase knowledge about health and wellness, develop public speaking skills, and enhance leadership abilities while helping to improve the health of Tallahassee/Leon County and the surrounding area. Since inception, Youth Health Leadership has impacted over 180 youth and parents in Leon County who have participated in the program.
COPE was formed in 2010, under the leadership of Florida A&M University and the Florida Family Network, Inc., in partnership with the Florida State University Center on Better Health and Life for Underserved Populations and the Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council. These partner organizations initiated plans for the development of a comprehensive coalition of over 80 public and private sector agencies, organizations, institutions, and individuals to address childhood overweight and obesity.
The mission of COPE is to develop and implement a plan of action to decrease childhood obesity in Tallahassee with the vision healthy children, a healthy future and healthy Tallahassee. COPE was previously funded by the Florida Blue Foundation.
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