Penny A. Ralston and Camille Lewis
The 2022 Youth Health Leadership (YHL) cohort recently teamed up with the Tallahassee Earth Day Festival to promote health and environmental sustainability.
Under the leadership of Camille Lewis, the goal of the Earth Day Festival was to bring the community together and provide them with hands-on and informative exhibitions, activities and workshops centered around sustainability. In total, over 500 people participated in the event held on April 23 in connection with the global celebration of Earth Day.
YHL members, who attended the Festival to fulfill their Collaborative Project for the program, served as vendors and provided an interactive exhibit on “People for the Planet” to demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between the natural environment and human health.
The exhibit was in two parts: A children’s table that included a hands-on activity to build an urban garden and Earth Day materials and how to prepare flavored water using fruits and herbs. The adult panel provided a discussion on basic facts on Earth Day, current environmental and sustainability issues, and actionable ideas to create change in the community.
Commenting on the project and the partnership with YHL, Lewis stated, “We are so grateful that YHL came out to celebrate Earth Day. Seeing these young leaders in action was confirmation that the future of our planet is in good hands.” The goal of Youth Health Leadership, now in its 10th year, is to engage youth ages 14-18 in promoting and improving health and wellness through education and action in Tallahassee/Leon County.
Thirteen young people were selected for the 2022 cohort. “We are delighted to have such a talented group of young people who have creatively planned and implemented a dynamic interactive exhibition to promote the relationship of environmental health and sustainability. The partnership with the Earth Day Festival is a testament to this group’s understanding of the purpose of Earth Day and the role of young people in protecting our environment, noted Penny Ralston, FSU director and professor.
The Earth Garden is a community-based organization that empowers individuals and families to grow their own food. It was founded in 2020 at the beginning 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.
Founded by Childhood Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE), YHL includes a three-phase curriculum: 1) Trainings (four sessions with interactive content: total health, healthy eating, physical activity, and health justice), 2) Application rotation (community practice) involving shadowing a health professional or performing service learning, and 3) Collaborative project in partnership with a community organization.
Through YHL, youth can increase health and wellness knowledge, develop public speaking skills and improve leadership skills while helping to improve the health of Tallahassee/Leon County and the surrounding area. Since its 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 for Health and Better Living for Underserved Populations and the Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council. These partner organizations launched plans to develop a comprehensive coalition of over 80 public and private sector agencies, organizations, institutions and individuals to address childhood overweight and obesity.
COPE’s mission is to develop and implement an action plan to reduce childhood obesity in Tallahassee with the vision of healthy children, a healthy future and healthy Tallahassee. COPE was previously funded by the Blue Florida Foundation.
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