News Release Distributed 02/03/14
BATON ROUGE, La. – A Louisiana 4-H group attended the first 4-H National Youth Healthy Living Summit recently to learn how to spread the message about living safer and healthier.
Two 4-H Club members from Sabine Parish, one from Vernon Parish and one from Acadia Parish attended the Jan. 9-12 event at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Md.
Students who attended the summit were Tabitha Leonards of Acadia Parish, Chelsea Beasley and Sonia Carolina Wanderley Rocher de Almeida, both of Sabine Parish; and Tristen Nicholas of Vernon Parish.
They were joined by Nan Arthur, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Sabine Parish, and Hannah Miller, collegiate 4-H member and an LSU student.
The Louisiana delegation was selected through an application process with the understanding that they will return to Louisiana and conduct a Teen Summit that covers topics about healthy living. The group will pass along what they learned to other 4-H Club members across the state with two upcoming events in Louisiana, the Food and Fitness Camp in February, and the Junior Leadership Conference in March, both at Camp Grant Walker.
Arthur said the summit presented new ideas to the youngsters.
“It opened their eyes as to how unhealthy our whole society is,” Arthur said. “It’s something they’ll use for a life time.”
The programs included sessions on safe driving, with an emphasis on distracted driving, she said. That included texting but also brought up the idea that just reaching for things in a vehicle and eating can be included as distracted driving. “That got my attention, too,” she said.
In the section on healthy eating, students were shown the amounts of sweeteners in different food and drinks. Arthur said that session stressed the fact that most people eat too much and don’t exercise enough.
She said exercise programs were also demonstrated. “The focus was to get away from video games and television and get back to family time.”
Miller, a junior at LSU and originally from Acadia Parish, is an adult adviser to the state 4-H Food and Fitness Board. She said the trip will be beneficial to the Louisiana healthy living program. “It was very well worth it. They put everything they could into the little time we had.”
She said presenters at the summit gave them ideas for using resources, such as online programs and apps, to help them get their message across to other 4-H Club members.
“We actually learned a lot of cool things. They showed us resources to use and how to use them,” Miller said.
She said the healthy living philosophy is based on the idea that teenagers have a strong influence on their peers, and teens showing other teens the benefits of exercising, eating well and avoiding bad habits will make more of an impression than the ideas from adults.
She said after the summit, the students pointed out that the wellness program in Louisiana stresses food and fitness, but consideration should also be given to emotional well-being.
Beasley, a sophomore at Negreet High School, said the four days were packed with information and activities that were fun and useful.
“We mapped out our food and fitness track we’ll be doing at the Junior Leadership Conference, and I learned things about health I never heard before,” she said.
In one of the activities, an instructor challenged students to juggle a group of balloons, representing stresses encountered in life. The intent of the exercise was to demonstrate that obstacles can be overcome if they are tackled one at a time, she said, instead of trying to deal with all issues and problems at once.
She said in another exercise, students exercised and attempted to breathe through a straw. “It was to show how difficult it becomes to breathe when you become a smoker.”
Beasley said the trip was unforgettable.
“It was one of the most wonderful experiences,” she said. “I met incredible people and great leaders, and I learned so much.”
Nicholas, a sophomore at Anacoco High School in Vernon Parish, said the trip was intense.
“They kept us very active the whole time, but they kept it very interesting,” Nicholas said. “I gathered a lot of information on healthy living.”
He said the programs also showed him that the concept of healthy living could be expanded to include the topics of drug abuse, smoking, and texting while driving.
Nicholas said he has already used the drinking straw presentation in his school club meetings. “They really saw how damaging tobacco products are to their bodies.”
Nicholas said he was surprised to learn that many other states don’t have food and fitness programs comparable to Louisiana 4-H. “They were just coming up with a camp, so they were very interested in what we do.”
Funding for the trip was provided by an Eat4-Health grant provided by National 4-H and United Healthcare, according to Lanette Hebert, LSU AgCenter regional 4-H coordinator.
"We are excited for Louisiana to have a delegation of teens and adults attend the inaugural National 4-H Healthy Living Summit,” Hebert said. “With the knowledge they gained in the area of nutrition, fitness and other related healthy living topics, we are pleased to have them share this important information."