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Partnering to Empower Youth

May 13, 2015

Today, leaders in business, government, health, education and academia met for GENYOUth’s fourth Leadership Roundtable at Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers, in Santa Clara, Calif. All were engaged in furthering a movement to help America’s youth achieve a healthier future.

At the Roundtable, Alexis Glick, CEO of the GENYOUth Foundation, officially announced the release of the Empowering Youth report, and acknowledged the engagement of stakeholders and supporters for helping to make GENYOUth the preeminent peer organization it has become in fueling youth-led social change. Historically, youth have been involved in making civic and organizational changes on their own behalf, whether it was encouraging the use of seat belts or being involved in campaigns to stop texting while driving.

Now as we seek to foster a culture of wellness in our schools, I believe — as do other leaders whom I’ve spoken with – that the impetus for change lies with the students. We should listen to their ideas, then give them the tools and information they need to make decisions, solve problems and be the solution.

Quite simply, student involvement matters when it comes to healthy schools. Students have valuable, relevant ideas that can help improve the content of programs and make buy-in from others, including parents, educators and school administrators, easier. The potential for youth involvement has never been more apparent than in GENYOUth’s flagship program, Fuel Up to Play 60, launched nationally in 2010 by the National Football League and National Dairy Council, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You know something is happening when over 73,000 schools sign on to Fuel Up to Play 60 and when nearly 30,000 youth sign on as Student Ambassadors for their schools! According to data from a 2014 Fuel Up to Play 60 utilization survey, when student involvement increases from 0-9 percent to 50 percent or more, the proportion of students eating healthier goes from 12 percent to 56 percent – and the proportion of students getting more physical activity jumps from 14 percent to 67 percent. Who wouldn’t be encouraged by those stats?

GENYOUth’s work has only just begun. They are learning more daily about how to create meaningful dialogue with students, and how to cultivate them as strategists and action-takers. In the near-term they will concentrate on gathering, analyzing and disseminating insights and best practices for youth leadership; initiate programs that elevate youth voice; and develop partnerships that bring funding and resources together to drive social change for health.

Whether you are a school foodservice administrator, a teacher or a dietitian counseling overweight youth, there are things you can do to help empower young people to take charge of their own health and help their peers do the same.

Encourage students to join and take advantage of leadership development opportunities through Fuel Up to Play 60. National wellness campaigns like Fuel Up To Play 60’s Fuel Greatness, are creative, fun and empowering.

Encourage students to be full-fledged members of district or school wellness councils or school health advisory committees.

Listen to young peoples’ ideas, then help broadcast the student voice in schools or wherever you have influence.

Connect young people to the Brief for Students section of the Wellness Impact Report, to help inspire their health leadership potential.

Tweet your thoughts about how to support and empower youth wellness and follow the conversation at #EmpowerYouthNow, @FUTP60 and follow me at @JeanRagalieRD.

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