Teens teach youth healthy habits over winter break

FAIRBANKS, Alaska - While kids are on winter break, they can still learn about healthy habits. At the University Park building Friday first through six graders learned about healthy habits from teenagers as part of the Healthy Habits Champs program.

These elementary school students learn from teenagers about making the right food choices, brushing their teeth and other healthy habits. Candi Dierenfield 4-H Youth Development Educator says these life skills are important to learn early.

"So healthy habits are really important to start learning at a young age. As we see the obesity rate of our children and adults increasing every year, just learning to make the right food choices is super important," said Dierenfield.

The day included gym play, lots of learning, snacks and a lunch that they helped make including flavored water, yogurt parfaits and enchilada casserole.

"The importance of that, for us, is to make sure that kids have an opportunity to eat and to learn something nutritious and also no school days, you know, sometimes parents are like 'Okay, what do we do with the kids today. There's no school. We have to work' so we're going to focus on those holidays that are coming up," said Dierenfield.

Teenagers from health careers classes at Lathrop and Hutchison High School were involved in the program as ambassadors.

"So the cool thing about having the teens help out is that their enthusiasm is infectious and the younger children look up to them. They will sit and listen to a teen talking to them way longer than they will listen to me as an adult, no matter how much fun we're having, but it also is a really great way for the teens to give back to their community," said Dierenfield.

One of the teenage ambassadors Riely Dixon says participating in programs like these will help her towards the career she wants, but that's not the only reason she does it.

"It's just fun with the kids, and it's fun to be like 'Hi, I'm Riely, I'm just going to be helping out today and you're super cool and I hope I'm pretty cool so let's have a good time,'" said Dixon.

Dierenfield hopes that these students will take home some enthusiasm towards healthy habits.

There is another winter break Healthy Habits Champs class next Friday January 4 from 10 to 2 p.m. at the North Pole Worship Center. The class is free of charge. Registration is on their website at http://www.alaska4h.org/4-h-healthy-habits-champs.html.