Healthy Texas seeking high school students statewide to become youth ambassadors

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Dr. Courtney Dodd, 979-845-1211, cfdodd@ag.tamu.edu

Julie Gardner, 979-845-1484, julie.gardner@ag.tamu.edu

 

COLLEGE STATION — The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is looking for high school youth throughout Texas to participate in its Healthy Texas initiative to provide Texans and their families with the knowledge and resources to take control of their health.

The mission of Healthy Texas is to promote preventive health at the most local level of the community and improving the well-being of Texans for generations to come, said Dr. Courtney Dodd, assistant agency director and Texas 4-H youth development leader, College Station.

“We engage families, enhance education, promote behavior change and improve quality of medical care and health outcomes,” Dodd said. “Our Healthy Texas team consists of health care professionals, educators, AgriLife Extension agents, community health workers, scientists and specialists who work, play and raise families in the communities they serve.”

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Texas A&M AgriLife Extension agents and administrators introduce people to the Healthy Texas initiative at the State Fair of Texas. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

She said there is also a youth component to the Healthy Texas initiative, and they are now combining the pre-existing Healthy South Texas Youth Ambassador and 4-H Healthy Lifestyle Ambassador programs into a statewide Healthy Texas Youth Ambassador program.

“We are now looking for high-schoolers throughout the state to join in the effort to tell others in their community about the importance of proper nutrition, daily activity and making good food choices,” Dodd said. “Those interested should be dedicated, dependable, mature and interested the purpose of the program.”

Julie Gardner, AgriLife Extension 4-H youth development specialist, said the Healthy Texas Youth Ambassador program will be a grassroots effort involving high schoolers who will primarily communicate in peer-to-peer settings with other youth their own age or younger.

“The number selected each term to serve as ambassadors is determined by the AgriLife Extension agent in the local county who supervises the Healthy Texas youth ambassador program,” she said. “The number is based upon need, program demands, term goals for the ambassadors and number of eligible applicants.”

Gardner said those interested should contact their local AgriLife Extension office for more information about the program and to apply.

Youth must meet certain requirements to be considered for selection, including:

— Being in at least the ninth grade at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year.

— Submit a completed application to their local AgriLife Extension office by May 1, 2018.

— Meet academic eligibility.

Gardner also said Healthy Texas youth ambassadors should participate in online or in-person trainings, complete and report 50 hours of leadership, program efforts or community service annually, attend a regional Healthy Texas Youth Ambassador Summit in a location nearest to them, remain academically eligible and meet other requirements as outlined in the Healthy Texas Youth Ambassador informational handbook

AgriLife Extension agents in participating counties will review applications and determine selection criteria or interviews for ambassadors during May and youth will be notified of acceptance June 1.

“Participants do not need to be members of or affiliated with a 4-H club to be Healthy Texas
Youth Ambassadors,” she said. “To participate, you only need a desire to improve your own health and the health of others.”

Gardner said Healthy Texas youth ambassadors will serve as youth community health and wellness leaders and also serve as leaders in implementing health programs and lessons in local schools.

“Ambassadors will become knowledgeable and skilled in healthy lifestyles subject matter so they can coordinate educational events that will encourage better health in their communities for both youth and adults,” she said. “They will also serve as role models for healthy living.”

Gardner said youth ambassadors can assist with AgriLife Extension health and wellness initiatives such as Walk Across Texas by recruiting school teams and entering class miles and help with the agency’s Learn, Grow, Eat & Go! nutrition education programming.

She said the Healthy Texas program hopes to further its outreach and bring the youth ambassador program into school health programs, culinary programs and homeschool organizations looking for community service opportunities.

“Our goal is to help develop youth health leaders who can make a positive impact on their own health as well as the health of others in their community,” she said.

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