Recent data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that nearly one in five school-age children are obese and almost one-third of high school students are overweight or obese. In an ongoing effort to reverse these alarming statistics and curb the obesity epidemic among our nation’s youth, Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) is motivating members to take educated steps in a healthier direction. Through new programming, BGCA is empowering the four million youth served at nearly 4,100 Clubs across the country to develop healthy, active lifestyles.
“We want to ensure that Club and community members are aware of the facts and figures facing our kids and teens, and empower them to change the statistics,” said Jennifer Bateman, National Vice President of Health, Wellness & Gender at BGCA. “It is essential that we teach not only the importance of physical health, but also nutritional health and mental and emotional well-being.”
Communities throughout the nation now have access to a wide range of programs designed to improve health and wellness among young people. An important aspect of this programming is cultivating youths’ knowledge, skills and positive attitudes about health education. For example, Triple Play – a comprehensive health and wellness program – increases Club members’ daily physical activity through a number of fitness programs, such as jump rope and obstacle courses. After working up an appetite, Club teens are provided with resources on proper nutrition and healthy habits, so they can make smart decisions on their own. In other instances, Clubs are providing teens with hands-on food preparation training in on-site teaching kitchens so they can implement the same techniques at home. Additional offerings such as the ALL STARS team sports program, which builds teamwork and sportsmanship for success on and off the field, access to mental health counseling and mentorship opportunities provide Club youth with the resources they need to practice healthy lifestyles.
One mentor in particular, Recreational Coordinator Julio Serrano of the Boys & Girls Club of the Coastside in Half Moon Bay, California, was recently recognized for making a profound impact in his community. Serrano was named 50 Fund Playmaker by the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee after being nominated by his local Club for starting a Moonridge Soccer Outreach Program. The outreach program was designed to give Club youth a safe place to go after school where they can participate in fun activities, develop leadership skills, build a community and foster relationships with positive role models and mentors. Since its inception, attendance has grown from six Club youth to more than 50 participants. As a result of Serrano’s outstanding achievements, the Club will receive a Playmaker grant that will provide area youth with even greater access to recreational programs, activities and resources within a safe environment.
“To me, it is not really a job. It is an honor and a privilege to have the chance to positively impact the young people in my community,” said Serrano. “Kids are the future and the time we spend with them today helps to make them better people who can make the world a better place.”
Teens, parents and others interested in learning more about the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Healthy Lifestyles programs and/or how to get involved at their local Boys and Girls Club can visit www.greatfutures.org.