Youth Health Leadership Teams Up for Earth Day Festival

Penny A. Ralston and Camille Lewis

The 2022 cohort of Youth Health Leadership (YHL) recently partnered with the Tallahassee Earth Day Festival to promote environmental health and sustainability.

Led by Camille Lewis, the goal of the Earth Day Festival was to bring the community together and provide hands-on and informative exhibits, activities and workshops focused on sustainability. In total, more than 500 people attended the event, which was held on April 23 as part of the global celebration of Earth Day.

YHL members, who attended the Festival to realize their collaborative project for the program, served as vendors and presented an interactive exhibit on “People for the Planet” to demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between the natural environment and the health of people.

The exhibition was in two parts: A children’s table which included a practical activity to build an urban garden and materials on Earth Day and how to prepare flavored water using fruits and herbs. The adult table provided a discussion of basic facts about Earth Day, current environmental and sustainability issues, and actionable ideas for creating change in the community.

Youth Health Leadership members discuss basic Earth Day facts, environmental and sustainability issues, and ideas for creating change in the community at the adult table.

Commenting on the project and the partnership with YHL, Lewis said, “We are so grateful that YHL came to celebrate Earth Day. Seeing these young leaders in action was confirmation that the future of our planet is in good hands. The goal of Youth Health Leadership, now in its 10th year, is to engage youth ages 14-18 in promoting and improving health and well-being through education and action in the Tallahassee/Leon County.

Thirteen young people have been selected for the 2022 cohort. “We are thrilled to have such a talented cohort of young people who have creatively planned and implemented a dynamic interactive exhibit to promote the relationship between environmental health and sustainability. The partnership with the Earth Day Festival is a testament to this cohort’s understanding of the purpose of Earth Day and the role of young people in protecting our environment, noted Penny Ralston, Director and Professor at FSU .

Youth Health Leadership members engage a child participant at the Children's Table who reviews a brochure developed by YHL members on how to make flavored water using fruits and herbs.

Earth’s Garden is a community organization that enables individuals and families to grow their own food. It was founded in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and since its inception Ms Lewis has planted gardens in homes, churches and schools; arming hundreds of people with the knowledge and skills to grow their own food.

Established by Childhood Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE), YHL includes a three-phase program: 1) Trainings (four interactive content sessions: total health, healthy eating, physical activity and health justice), 2) Rotation of application (community internship) which involves pairing a health care professional or doing service learning, and 3) collaborative project in partnership with a community organization.

Through YHL, youth can increase their health and wellness knowledge, develop public speaking skills, and improve their leadership abilities while helping to improve the health of Tallahassee/Leon County and surrounding areas. . Since its inception, Youth Health Leadership has reached over 180 Leon County youth and parents who have participated in the program.

Selected YHL Members with Camille Lewis Selected members of Youth Health Leadership salute Camille Lewis of Earth's Gardens LLC, who spearheaded the Earth Day Festival in Tallahassee.

COPE was created in 2010, led by Florida A&M University and the Florida Family Network, Inc., in partnership with the Florida State University Center on Better Health and Life for Underserved Populations and the Greater Frenchtown Revitalization Council. These partner organizations have initiated plans for the development of a comprehensive coalition of over 80 public and private sector agencies, organizations, institutions and individuals to address childhood overweight and obesity.

COPE’s mission is to develop and implement an action plan to reduce childhood obesity in Tallahassee with the vision of healthy children, a healthy future and a healthy Tallahassee. COPE was previously funded by the Florida Blue Foundation.

For more information about Earth’s Garden LLC, please contact earthsgardenllc@gmail.com. For more information about YHL, please contact Penny Ralston at pralston@fsu.edu.

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