Summit promotes advocacy, healthy lifestyles for teens
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Community improvement starts with a volunteer spirit and a desire to serve as a role model for positive change.
In north Mississippi, plenty of teenagers are ready to step up. They just need to know how to help.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service 4-H program hosted 69 14- to 18-year-olds April 22 at the Mill Conference Center in Starkville to help some of these future leaders learn not just how to lead, but also how to take care of themselves and help their peers during challenging times.
The Promoting Healthy Living Through Community Connections Teen Summit featured specialists from MSU speaking to students on several topics, including mental health, nutrition, health promotion, physical fitness, and civic and community engagement. The summit promoted participation in the Junior Master Wellness Volunteer Program -- or JrMWV -- which trains young people to advocate for healthy lifestyle choices in their communities.
One workshop introduced kids to various types of youth civic engagement and outlined the best ways to find opportunities for public outreach. An exercise in this session encouraged the students to put together an “elevator speech.” Named after the brief amount of time two people would spend riding an elevator together, an elevator speech offers a way to network with colleagues and make introductions with potential employers in roughly half a minute.
Now that Christyn Earnest knows what one of these speeches is, she appreciates the value of having one ready when she applies for jobs and universities.
“That was my first time being introduced to it. I didn’t know something like an elevator speech would be something jobs and college applications look for,” said Earnest, a seventh-grader at J.Z. George High School in Carrollton. “It was eye opening for me because now I know what I need to say and how to present myself to an employer.”
JrMWV Director Jasmine Harris-Speight said the summit was built on the health education program and includes high schoolers just like the ones at Saturday’s event.
“I want our teens to take a positive outlook on life and see that there are people who care about them,” she said. “We want to create more open spaces for them like this to be themselves, have fun and take something back to their community. We hope they’ll be interested in our 4-H programs we have to offer so they can learn those public speaking skills, team building skills and healthy habits they will need later in life.”
For parents who attended with their teens, the summit hosted workshops on subjects such as stress reduction strategies to healthy technology use. Parents also received information on becoming JrMWV volunteer leaders.
“This is a great showcase for MSU Extension to show teens and their parents the programs we have to offer and all the great people we have making a difference,” Speight added. “We have Extension agents and faculty and experts giving these workshops because we want everyone who attends to be more aware of resources we have in the community for youth and adults.”
Teens at the workshops also heard from keynote speaker and MSU football legend Wayne Madkin, who now serves in a leadership role at Entergy Mississippi.