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Posted: June 8, 2013 3:54 p.m.

4-H teaches others that Health Rocks

Terri Kimble /The Covington News/

Sometimes people mistakenly think we get the summer off.

Instead, there have been 12 third graders through fifth graders and 11 middle school and high school youths in the 4-H office all week, trapped by the storms.

Yet a few times, I actually had to sneak down the hall to peer inside the room to see if they were even still there. The youths were listening intently as a teen leader led a lesson or explained instructions for the next activity.

Yes, the teens taught the entire week.

Michelle Lewis of Eastside High is a statewide Health Rocks! ambassador, and county ambassadors are MaKenzy McCord, who is home-schooled; Kara Gartner and Kacie Gartner of the Academy of Liberal Arts at Newton High; and Kayla Gartner of Liberty Middle.

Teen leaders for the week were Bradford Porter, Academy of Liberal Arts at Newton High; Liz Simpson, Eastside High; Audrey Holder, home-schooled student; Anna Simpson, Eastside High; Jada Biggs, Liberty Middle; and Ansley White, Indian Creek Middle.

The ambassador team, with the help of volunteer leaders Jamie McCord, Sandra Gartner and Colleen Lewis, planned the week’s schedule, purchased supplies and prepared lessons.

Ambassadors and teen leaders taught sessions from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., each day.

The ambassadors are trained to teach the national 4-H Health Rocks! curriculum, then share what they’ve learned with other teens in the county in order to lead the day camp and sessions at other community events like the Y’s Day Camp.

"It was an experience for kids to learn about stress and different influences that they can take to their friends. Such as, it’s wrong to be mean to people, and it’s wrong to follow others’ bad examples," said state ambassador Michelle Lewis, teaching for her fourth summer.

"A lot of times, the kids don’t seem to realize that drinking can be bad. In Health Rocks! they learn that some things can seem good, but are really hurting your health."

Ambassador MaKenzy McCord said, "Teaching is fun, and since this is my second year as an ambassador, I actually got to teach a lot of lessons this year. I taught two by myself specifically."

"I really like the one where we put the cigarette in the bottle to show what gets in our lungs if you smoke a cigarette. The kids’ facial expressions were complete and total shock. Seeing it 50 times, you don’t remember what it was like that first time," she said.

Kacie Gartner agreed that the lung lesson was one of the best.

Gartner said, "We learned about tar in your lungs with two lessons, and they were disgusted by it. There is another lesson with molasses on a plate that shows how sticky tar is in your lungs."

Kayla Gartner, a first-year ambassador, commended the campers for being so cooperative.

"The campers were great. They listen to you, and they’re so respectful. Sometimes, it got a little crazy when peoples’ crafts fell apart.

"The teen leaders step in to do our best to try to fix it, and if we still can’t fix it, we talk to them about it and see if there’s anything we can do to make them happy."

And that, for the adults involved, was what stood out the most this year of all the years we’ve hosted Health Rocks! Day Camp.

The teen leaders and ambassadors took complete leadership of the event, even counseling campers when frustrations arose or conflicts occurred.

Kara Gartner encourages other youths to get involved with 4-H Health Rocks! programming.

"It’s fun," said Gartner. "And it can prevent you from getting involved in unhealthy activities, and (help you) to help your friends and family, too."

Terri Kimble is the Newton County 4-H Agent through UGA Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at 770-784-2010 or tkimble@uga.edu.

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