Youth Learn Why Health Matters to Them
After participating in a MIKE Program activity about how youth respond to healthy and unhealthy foods, Alison realized what it meant. She wrote on her lesson sheet, “health is all that matters.” She, like most of her peers is beginning to understand the links between their actions and their health.
Youth at two Portland schools are teamed with caring adults who provide healthy snacks and guidance through the youths’ health curriculum and leadership projects. Mentors play an important role as the youth discover the importance of their health decisions. In turn, the youth are developing the knowledge and skills to become role models in their school, family and community.
MIKE Program launched the 2011-2012 program at De La Salle North Catholic High School in October, where we serve about 100 youth. The program at Rosemary Anderson High School began in November.
MIKE Program Partners with Health Teachers to Strengthen Lessons
MIKE Program is a partnership on many levels: youth with mentors, mentors with MIKE Program, and MIKE Program with schools—especially, teachers. MIKE Program partners with health teachers who serve as site facilitators, welcoming MIKE Program’s award-winning curriculum and mentors. The curriculum provides a holistic approach to health, healthy lifestyles and healthy kidneys.
David Mickola of De La Salle North Catholic High School is now in his third year with MIKE Program. Mickola says, “I’ve seen a progression over time by the students, also increasing awareness of chronic disease and the very tangible link of the importance of drinking water over soda.” A graduate of Portland State and George Fox Universities, Mickola worked with medically-fragile children before teaching at De La Salle. With 22 mentors in his freshman health classes each week, Mickola appreciates the help and commitment. “It’s great to see the mentors engage and develop trust with their students.”
Mickola would like to see MIKE Program expand. “One of the most frequent questions I get from my seniors is, ‘why didn’t we get to do MIKE Program?’”
MIKE Program renewed its partnership with Rosemary Anderson High School/POIC this November. Youth at the school represent some of Portland’s most vulnerable. MIKE Program’s comprehensive approach ties the relationship of healthy lifestyles to positive role models. MIKE Program mentor Robert Brown undergoes weekly dialysis treatments, so he provides the RAHS youth a direct connection to the effects of kidney failure. He volunteers with MIKE Program because he saw a lack of positive role models in the community.
For Dennis Butler, instructor at Rosemary Anderson High School, MIKE Program offers engagement in healthy relationships as much as it does skills building.
Butler has been teaching and/or facilitating in education for 36 years. He appreciates how MIKE Program provides way for youth to counter the effects that lead to kidney failure.
MIKE Program in the Classroom: It’s a Learning Process
Last week in David Mickola’s classroom, the De La Salle North Catholic High School youth were absorbed in a conversation about teasing a fellow classmate for eating a healthy lunch. The youth were engaged in an exercise to highlight how teens respond to lunchroom situations. The majority laughed that they were eating pizza while their classmate was chewing on carrots.
Now in their seventh week, the mostly 14-year-olds still have much to learn as healthy eating extends beyond a classroom lesson. They are beginning to use individual health planners developed and provided by MIKE Program to guide them toward healthier choices. For MIKE Program, it’s a strategy for genuine change in behavior.
MIKE Program mentors listened as Mickola took his students through the process of discussing the implications of the scenario and what effect it had on the boy and themselves. After the discussion, the youth not only were more aware of how their actions, but were also more open to understanding how foods affect their health.
Youth today are more likely to value pizza and junk food over vegetables and fruits. MIKE Program carefully realigns those values to empower youth to understand the importance of their choices for their health now and in the future.
MIKE Program incorporates sensible, easy to access foods and actions to help build far greater success toward reaching that goal. To instill healthy habits, MIKE Program mentors bring healthy snacks to class each week. They focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains in healthy combinations as staples for the youth snacks. The process of bringing healthy snacks is also a learning process for the mentors. Catherine Stensby, who mentors two groups each week, commented that she was surprised by the price of grapes in the off-season, so she’s found other healthy foods that fit within her budget.
Greg Kluthe, who mentors with Stensby on Thursdays, said he’s watched the youth progress from ignoring the snacks during the first weeks, to now arriving at class looking for the snacks and water. The process helps youth adapt to the healthy choices through sharing a normal routine with their peers. It also builds consistency into their diet which may not be available at home.
The process is important to countering obesity. According to the Portland Plan, one in four youth are overweight in the Portland area, adding to the increase rates of diabetes at younger ages. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney failure in the U.S. Losing weight and eating healthy can prevent the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.
A Gallop poll released this week, asked about ways Americans have lost weight successfully. Those polled sited dietary changes and exercise as most reliable. The recently released draft of The Portland Plan counted one in every four youth in the region as overweight or obese. Such data point to one of the fundamental reasons for MIKE Program. Equipping teenagers with knowledge, skills and values to make healthier decisions prepares the youth to advocate for themselves, peers and families and avoid joining the rising segment of the population experiencing chronic non-communicable diseases.
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