Written by Ann Marie Murphy —
Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley was impressed. So impressed, he bestowed an award on the Malheur County Youth Advocates for Health (YA4-H!) program.
Recognizing its impact, Senator Jeff Merkley selected and recognized the Malheur County YA4-H! Teens as Teachers program and presented them with a Community Commendation Flag at the town hall in Ontario, Ore., for their work in Malheur County.
YA4-H! is a statewide teen health ambassador program that began in Oregon in the fall of 2011 with the ultimate goal of leading positive health-related change in their communities. In the process, the teen ambassadors also learn healthy eating and active lifestyle behaviors.
Here’s a sample of the project’s contribution to Malheur county:
- Since 2013, the teens have helped plan, plant, and harvest over 6,482 pounds of produce in partnership with the Four Rivers Community Garden for the Next Chapter Food Pantry. In 2015 the teens held ten education field trips for youth in the community garden.
- They reached 500 youth in kindergarten through sixth grade with five hours of direct education related to physical activity, nutrition, plant science, and healthy living.
- They worked with community partners such as Alameda Elementary School to host a Food Hero booth at a Fun Run.
“This project is an exceptional example of a true community partnership and the importance Extension plays in the community,” noted Barbara Brody, Family & Community Health and 4-H Youth Development, OSU Extension Service Malheur County. “Partners include: Ontario School District; Adult Volunteers/Advisors; Four Rivers Community Garden; St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church; 4-H Alumni; and the teens who are currently enrolled.”
The teens participating in the project have proof of their success: Evaluations show that over 90% of the youth that participated in the program delivered by the teens said they would stop drinking sugary drinks. They also tried new foods and learned how to grow their own foods. Another teen participant commented, “I have become more aware of my health by teaching the kids about nutrition and physical activity. I no longer drink soda!” Now that’s a result with the potential for lifelong impact.
To qualify as a YA4-H! teen teacher, teens make a substantial commitment in time – at least 10 hours of training is recommended as a minimum, but 30-40 hours of training is preferred – and must be:
- Between the ages of 15 – 17;
- Motivated to learn about healthy eating and the benefits of an active lifestyle; and
- Able to communicate the value of healthy eating and increased physical activity, and to help others make healthy choices.
Learn more about the program here.