SAN ANTONIO – Two area 4-H programs focused on promoting higher education among minority students have collaborated with Texas A&M University in San Antonio to present an educational community health and wellness event.
The 4-H Juntos club of the Harlandale ISD and the Knights 4-H club of Saint John Berchmans’ Catholic School were involved in the event as part of a public service initiative to provide information on health and wellness resources available in the community.
The event was held in the grand courtyard of the university’s Central Academic Building, with more than 115 people attending.
“About 25 members from both 4-H clubs participated,” said Dr. Melinda Garcia, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 4-H youth development specialist overseeing the two clubs. “Health is one ‘H’ of the 4-H program, and we wanted to have an event that involved the clubs in that aspect. TAMU-SA was kind enough to collaborate with us and provide a venue.”
In Texas, 4-H programs are administered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, part of the Texas A&M University System.
4-H members assisted at event displays, providing information for attendees and guiding both youth and adults through an obstacle course involving balance, coordination and endurance.
“We tell our 4-H members that good nutrition and physical exercise are important to their health and involve them in activities where they can experience these things,” Garcia said.
Community participants at the event included the San Antonio Police Department, Better Living for Texans, San San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department, the health and kinesiology department of TAMU-SA, Our Lady of the Lake University, Alamo Area Council of Governments, San Antonio Blood and Tissue Bank, AmeriGroup-Real Solutions, Willie Cortez Senior Center and Enrique M. Barrera Community Center.
St. John Berchmans’ 4-H club provided participants with “goody bags” containing 4-H and AgriLife Extension information, plus provided attendees with fruits and breakfast bars.
“We had scheduled a blood drive at the event through the blood bank, “ Garcia said. “Of the 48 people who signed up, 35 were approved to donate. We teach community service in the 4-H program and involving them in this blood drive was a chance for them to see what kinds of contributions individuals can make to help their community.”
Dr. Manuel Pina, an associate professor in the department of agricultural leadership, education and communication at Texas A&M University in College Station, attended and supported the event.
“Health awareness events like these are important to the community, especially in places where resources and access are limited,” Pina said. “They are also important for the 4-H youth so they can better understand why it’s important to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise. They can also take what they learn at events like these and share it with their parents and other family members.”
Natalie Ramos with the Better Living for Texans program of AgriLife Extension was one of the event exhibitors.
“BLT’s focus is primarily on the health and wellness of people 55 and older,” Ramos said. “We provide them with educational materials and programs related to better nutrition for seniors, plus help them understand how they may need to alter their eating and exercise habits due to their age.”
Dr. Sukho Lee and students in the department of health and kinesiology at TAMU-SA provided a unique experience for attendees by providing hands-on demonstrations of equipment used for measuring or assessing physical functions such as grip strength. They also provided attendees an opportunity to experience what it feels is like to be impaired by having them wear a padded blindfold that simulated a visual impairment, then giving them a cane and walking them around the exhibition area.
“Many people don’t understand what it’s like to have a physical impairment,” Lee said. “It’s important that we give them a chance to experience how an impairment affects a person’s ability to perform those everyday tasks we take for granted.”
Garcia noted this too was a good experience for the 4-H youth who visited the display as they would better able to understand and empathize with those who have a physical impairment.
“4-H is an inclusive organization and it even offers a Mission Possible summer camp at the Texas 4-H Conference Center in Brownwood specifically designed for young people with physical disabilities,” she said. “Giving the 4-H members at the event a chance to experience what it’s like to have a physical impairment helped them see how people can be different and how some people may need extra help and consideration.”
Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Dr. Melinda Garcia, 210-954-3331, Melinda.Garcia@ag.tamu.edu