Teens train to help youngsters make healthy living choices

A dozen Coon Rapids High School students took in some Youth Teaching Youth training during a Jan. 11 session at Bunker Hills Activity Center.

The students fine-tuned their roles as educators to younger students on the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drugs.

Twelve Coon Rapids High School students participated Jan. 11 in Minnesota 4-H Youth Teaching Youth training at Bunker Hills Activity Center. The students learned the fine points of serving as educators to fourth-graders and teaching them the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drug. Photo by Sue Austreng

Twelve Coon Rapids High School students participated Jan. 11 in Minnesota 4-H Youth Teaching Youth training at Bunker Hills Activity Center. The students learned the fine points of serving as educators to fourth-graders and teaching them the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drug. Photo by Sue Austreng

Those lessons will be used when the teen mentor/educators visit Hamilton and Morris Bye elementary schools in the coming weeks. There they will meet with fourth-graders and – using their unique credibility as teachers to kids just a few years younger than they – will influence those youngsters to make healthy living choices.

During their Jan. 11 training session, the CRHS students learned and then practiced effective, time-tested strategies for helping fourth-graders stay alcohol-, tobacco- and drug-free.

“The majority of the day is spent with teens practicing teaching sessions to each other” before they do the real-life teaching at Hamilton and Morris Bye, said Layne Tralle, program coordinator for Youth Teaching Youth, a program sponsored by the University of Minnesota Extension Service, Anoka County and 4-H.

Karen Sherga, CRHS educator and Youth Teaching Youth coordinator, calls it a valuable experience for the teens.

“This is such a good opportunity for these kids to develop their leadership skills, use their own experiences, their own life skills to help the younger ones get on – or keep on – the right track,” Sherga said.

With the teen-taught seminars in the elementary schools, the younger students get much-needed training and mentoring, and the teens have an opportunity to look at their own values and survival skills.

“These kids want to help make a difference,” Sherga said.

And the students taking part in the Youth Teaching Youth training readily testify to that desire.

At day’s end, the CRHS teen educators talked about wanting to help kids make better decisions and said they found it valuable to talk about real life situations and to share real life experiences with younger students.

“Helping them learn to say ‘no’ is one of the best things we can do. Helping the fourth-graders know the dangers of drugs and alcohol, tobacco and all that nasty stuff – I’m happy to help do that,” said teen teacher-in-training Juliet Fatunbi.

A Youth Teaching Youth teen teacher-in-training got ready for a final exercise as the Jan. 11 training session came to a close. Photo by Sue Austreng

A Youth Teaching Youth teen teacher-in-training got ready for a final exercise as the Jan. 11 training session came to a close. Photo by Sue Austreng

And Sherga considers the high schoolers’ lessons to the fourth-graders to eventually be a positive influence on the high school community, too.

“These kids (Hamilton and Morris Bye fourth graders) will be coming to our school in a few years, so I’m really thrilled to have our students provide a strong, positive influence right now. That will help to create and continue the healthy community we have at the high school,” Sherga said.

CRHS teen educators will visit Hamilton fourth-graders on Jan. 28, Feb. 11 and Feb. 25.

Morris Bye Youth Teaching Youth visits will take place in March or April, Sherga said.

“I’m excited to work with the fourth-graders. This is going to be sweet,” said one of the teen teachers-in-training as she packed up her things at the close of the Jan. 11 training day.

To learn more about Youth Teaching Youth, call the Anoka County Extension office at 763-755-1280 or contact Tralle at 763-767-2892 or trall005@umn.edu.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

 
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