Teens learn leadership, explore careers in 4-H
RAYMOND, Miss. -- Rocheryl Ware sees members of her 4-H Junior Master Wellness Volunteer group as catalysts that can help change Mississippi's health landscape.
The 12-member Hinds County group is the eighth team of young people in the state to be trained to deliver basic health education, provide supervised basic screenings and conduct community service projects related to health and well-being. More than 100 teens have participated in the Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H youth development program to date. Teens ages 15 to 18 are eligible to apply for training.
“These kids are conversation starters,” said Ware, an Extension 4-H agent in Hinds County. “They can communicate better with other teens than adults can. They can deliver the messages about healthy eating and exercise so that their peers listen. They are also great advocates within their own families. I’ve had parents and grandparents tell me that they are learning from them.”
The wellness volunteer program partners with students in health-related disciplines -- such as allied health classes and family and consumer science classes -- and other community clubs and organizations to offer health education through classroom and hands-on experiences. Other interested teens can participate directly through their Extension 4-H agents.
Participants learn about high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, interpreting prescriptions, cultural competency, oral health, health screenings, stress management, communicating with a health professional, portion control and healthy eating tips, and tobacco use and intervention.
Wellness volunteer Zuri Dixon is a Terry High School junior enrolled in a health science class at Hinds County Career and Technical Center in Raymond. She plans to attend medical school and was excited when she learned about the program.
“I thought this was an amazing opportunity to learn more about the health profession and get into the community to work with people who need basic information,” she said. “We’ve been able to work with doctors and medical students who mentor us. They’ve given us a lot of good advice.”
The program also provides young people with leadership skills and an outlet to practice them. Program volunteers must return 24 hours of community service by delivering health education in the topics they studied.
“We have become better at communicating with each other as a group and with members of the public,” said Boyd Chase, who aspires to be a biomedical engineer. “Since I’ve been involved in the program, I’ve gained some valuable experiences. I like that the program gives us the chance to volunteer with medical students and doctors who can give us some insight into the medical field.”
The wellness program is a partnership between Extension and the University of Mississippi Medical Center and its Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute.
For more information about the Junior Master Wellness Volunteer program, visit the Extension website at http://extension.msstate.edu/jmwv. To organize a club, contact the county Extension office or Ann Sansing at firstname.lastname@example.org.