Teaching teens healthy choices, living
Youth symposium held by Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority
The women of the Eta Omicron Sigma chapter of the Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority wanted to give children around Charles County something fun, but educational, to do last weekend and held a youth symposium on Saturday.
The symposium empha- sized the “three H’s,” said Natalie Bennet, the program’s coordinator and a member of the sorority.
“Our three H’s that we’re emphasizing are healthy choices, healthy living and healthy generations,” she said.
This was the 20th year the program was held, Bennett said, but this was the first time the group focused on those three specific aspects at once. Middle school and high school children from across the county were
invited to attend the event for free at the James E. Richmond Science Cen- ter at St. Charles High School.
There, children participated in healthy living sessions that included a nutrition lesson and an exercise clinic. After the healthy living session, children were moved to rooms specified by gender and ate lunch while talking about making healthy choices, sexuality and respect for other’s choices.
And finally, the program finished with a healthy generations STEM lesson where students participated in group activities using science, technology and math to solve problems in relation to a fictional CSI case.
Dacia Robertson, a member of the sorority who helped facilitate the program, said the group wanted to make sure that the central theme of the day was “It’s all about you.”
“What we hope young people get out of this is that ‘I need to make these decisions about how I want my life to be’ and to live positively,” Robertson said. “How can I choose healthy eat- ing habits so my body is right? We wanted to teach them about money, about school, about friendship. All of these positive de- cisions to help them live their best life possible.”
Robertson said the work the sorority was doing was just an extension of what parents already do, she said, but they wanted to bring in positive ex- amples to show children what could be done when they live healthy and posi- tive lifestyles.
Jeannie Tran, a former track athlete turned coach and personal trainer, was brought in to teach the children about healthy liv- ing and making decisions to emphasize healthy liv- ing and eating.
Tran said she has found joy in talking to and teaching children. It helps that she works with adults as a trainer, she said, who are normally more receptive to her as “an expert.” But chil- dren often challenge her, she said, which is a good thing because when they see results early it will help build better habits.
“I didn’t realize I actually like this. It’s interesting, it’s a bit more complicat- ed,” Tran said. “They’re at that growing point where you can eat whatever you want, but it won’t always be that way.”
It’s best to start building habits now, Tran said, so that as an adult they will not have to worry about completely revamping their mindset. It’s her goal, she said, to prepare them for that.
Chad Eric Smith, an actor and social activist who works with the social group Men Can Stop Rape, said he often goes around and talks to chil- dren in Washington, D.C, about respect for wom- en and respect for their peers. He was invited to do that with the young men attending the symposium Saturday.
The goal, he said, is to teach children to use their emotions and their anger as “positive influences” for better decisions in the future. Their conversa- tion was only 30 minutes, he said, so it was difficult to get into detail. “But I think we got some points across,” he said.
“We want to use our emotions in a positive way and be positive people,” he said. “We want to talk about consent, break down art and really try to understand and embrace each other’s stories.”
Tyriek Shaw, 16, the son of the chapter president Tonya Allen-Shaw, said he has participated in the program for years and has always enjoyed it. But this year, because of the STEM component of the program in the afternoon, he said he was excited for this year in particular.
“I’ve always been really good at math. Science interests me. I love working with my hands; the world is advancing. Technology is one of those good fields. I’m excited to work with it today,” he said.
Shaw, who wants to pursue video game design as his career, said the symposium is teaching children “not to stray to the wrong path,” and make the best decisions for them going forward into the future.
Overall, he said, the program is a great thing for children who are just looking for something to do on a boring Saturday afternoon. It gets them around their peers they do not know, he said, and helps foster more social interaction.
And, best of all, he said, it gives them a glimpse of what could be in the future.
“Nothing is going to deter me from my goals. I’m going to be the best I can be,” Shaw said.
Above, Health coach Jeannie Tran teaches children at the youth symposium about healthy living on Saturday afternoon while they munch on cinnamon-stevia popcorn as their healthy snack of the day. Below, Chad Eric Smith talks to the young men of the youth symposium about life choices, respect, consent and other things on Saturday afternoon in a circle before the group eats lunch.