Its not always about apples and how many push-ups they can do, said Alli Reid, Hialeah High School HealthCorps coordinator. The mental strength is most important because if a kid is not confident, they are just not going to go to the gym.
Often, that extends beyond giving students the confidence to work out and eat well.
They come crying to me a lot, said Reid, who has listened to problems from breakups with boyfriends, to home issues to remarks that sting. High school is hard. I teach them that those little comments are just comments.
Reid leads the Thursday after-school Girls Club, where about 50 teenage girls gather.
When 15-year-old Annia Negrin became a freshman at Hialeah High School, she lacked self-esteem.
I thought I was weird and no one would talk to me, she said. I would talk to Alli, and she would tell me to always be myself. It helped me because I started thinking more positive about myself.
Like other HealthCorps coordinators, Reid and Dorvilus are in their early 20s, making them easy to approach.
We are not that much older than they are. Even if it is something bad that they are doing, they can come talk to us. We are not going to judge them, said Dorvilus, 23.
Coordinators teach about 10 classes a week, getting the students involved in cooking, exercising, health fairs and even planting gardens. Fun and healthy competition are one of the key ingredients.
During lunch at Booker T. Washington, Dorvilus sets up an exercise station where he prompts teens to do push-ups or sit-ups and rewards them with pieces of watermelon or bananas. Last year, students planted a garden at the school with tomatoes, broccoli and watermelon, which they incorporated into their cooking class.
At a recent health fair in the gym at Hialeah High, students taught other students what theyve learned. Clad in black leggings, Jessica Justo, 14, showed her fellow students how to do the warrior yoga pose. Across from her, Laura DeZayas, 17, passed out parfaits, emphasizing the importance of eating breakfast.
They are not really familiar with it (parfaits). So at first, they might be a little hesitant because of the yogurt, said Laura.
Interactive class presentations also get the point across. Dorvilus had the students read the label on a can of Coke. Each can has 39 grams of sugar, equal to more than nine tablespoons. He then filled up a plastic bag with nine tablespoons of sugar, showing how much theyre consuming by drinking just one Coke.
Physical and visual demonstrations really work on them, he said.
Reid had the students compete in how quickly they could make breakfast a meal teens often skip leading them to snack on chips or cookies until lunchtime. The record for making a peanut butter sandwich with a banana: 14 seconds.
A lot of them say they dont eat breakfast because they dont have time, said Reid. But then you are telling me you dont have 14 seconds? The best part is they come back and say, Ms. Reid, I made the peanut butter and banana sandwich for my family. Thats how I know it works.
Such presentations worked for Hialeah High School freshman Ashley Rivera, 15.
I would never eat breakfast. I would just be hungry until lunch and then eat whatever I can pizza, burgers, tacos, said Ashley. Now, I eat the wheat-bread sandwiches and they have prepared salads at school.
Some dont have the means to get the ingredients, said Dorvilus. But I want them to be exposed to different things. Its not about the immediate effect but how, in the long term, it will affect their lives.
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