Working Together for Better Health

A teen with brown hair and wearing a green Junior Master Wellness Volunteer T-shirt stands in front of the Cleveland, Mississippi, Welcome Center.
Katelyn Orr is a Junior Master Wellness Volunteer in Bolivar County.

Extension wellness volunteers organize community walk

Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photos by Kevin Hudson

Katelyn Orr helped Cleveland residents get their hearts pumping and burn a few calories during the Community Walk in April.

The Cleveland Central High School senior was among several students who trained to serve as Junior Master Wellness Volunteers during the 2017–18 school year. The walk was organized by participants of the program, who are members of the Mississippi State University Extension Service’s 4-H Youth Development program. Teen participants learn to deliver basic health education, provide supervised basic screenings, and conduct community service projects related to health and well-being.

"The Junior Master Wellness program is a great example of how people can work together to teach others in the community how to change their lifestyles for better health.”

Katelyn Orr

“Mississippi has the second-highest number of overweight residents in the nation,” Orr explains. “It’s important for people to understand how they can lower their risk for the diseases and issues that can result from being overweight. The Junior Master Wellness program is a great example of how people can work together to teach others in the community how to change their lifestyles for better health.”

More than 50 community members participated in the walk around downtown Cleveland. Wellness volunteers provided information on exercise, blood pressure, and healthy diets.

The Junior Master Wellness Volunteer training was delivered through the Cleveland Career Development and Technology Center’s health science class. The students learned about human anatomy and body functions, discovered how to take basic health readings, and earned their CPR certification.

“We work with the school a lot to offer different 4-H programs to the students, and offering this program through the school was a great fit,” said Laura Giaccaglia, Extension agent in Bolivar County. “The Junior Master Wellness program paired well with what the students were learning in class. The school welcomed us and were very pleased to have the program as a companion to the classroom curriculum.”

The curriculum also provides students an opportunity to observe medical careers firsthand. Orr and her classmates shadowed medical professionals at North Sunflower Medical Center’s emergency department.

“We got to see certain types of X-rays and were able to listen to a video call to a heart specialist at another hospital,” Orr says. “We also answered questions about what we saw. Once we got back to class, we worked through each case we observed. We practiced at-home health care and triage, a system of determining what patients to see first, based on the severity of their condition.”

The wellness program is a partnership among Extension, 4-H, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and UMMC’s Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute. Extension delivers volunteer training through school health classes, family and consumer science classes, community service organizations, and directly through the local Extension office.

For more information about the Junior Master Wellness Volunteer program, visit the Extension website at http://extension. msstate.edu/jmwv. To organize a volunteer group in a local community, contact the local Extension office or Ann Sansing at aps6@msstate.edu.

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