COLUMBUS, Ohio — When they have the knowledge, confidence and support, young people can make profound changes in their community.
That’s the idea behind the #OHteens4Health Health Summit for Youth, 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Nov. 12 on the campus of The Ohio State University.
“We want teens to come and feel empowered, and gain some tools they can use to make changes in their own communities,” said Katie Riemenschneider, the Ohio 4-H Healthy Living Program coordinator.
“The idea is to find something they feel passionate about and learn how they can advocate for change.”
The summit is for middle school and high school students who have a passion for healthy living and want to help make changes toward that goal, whether it’s in an organization they’re involved with, their school or their community, said Theresa Ferrari, 4-H youth development specialist with Ohio State University Extension and one of the event’s organizers.
OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the university’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.
Participants are being encouraged to register as teams of three members or more and to bring a parent or supportive adult to serve as a mentor. The idea is that each team will choose a topic and prepare an action plan at the summit to take home where they can make a concerted effort for change, Riemenschneider said.
However, anyone who would like to attend is welcome, whether they have a team or not, she said.
“We don’t want them to come to the summit and just say, ‘Hey, that was cool,’” she said. “We want them to go back to their communities and take action. That’s where the adult comes in, to help the team navigate things back in the community to help them reach their goal.”
The summit is being organized by Ohio 4-H HealtH Heroes, a group of teens who attended a similar national 4-H summit in February in Washington, D.C.
“They really got a lot out of that experience, and they wanted to bring something like that back here to Ohio,” Ferrari said.
Participants will hear from Jilly Dos Santos, who, as a high school student in Columbia, Missouri, successfully advocated for her school district to adopt later school start times, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, to allow teens to get more sleep and be more alert during school.
Dos Santos, now a student at Middlebury College in Vermont, will present with Stacy Simera, chair of the sleep committee for the Ohio Adolescent Health Partnership and communications director for the national nonprofit Start School Later.
Other topics include:
- Positive choices related to alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, presented by the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network.
- Water First for Thirst, about making water the easy choice over high-sugar beverages, presented by Carol Smathers, field specialist for Youth, Nutrition and Wellness for OSU Extension. Smathers is also a co-organizer of the summit.
- Steering Yourself in the Right Direction, about promoting safe driving, presented by Ann Smith of Think First of Central Ohio and several members of the CARTEENS program in OSU Extension’s Franklin County office.
- Nature Play for Today, about advocating for natural park spaces for all ages in communities, presented by Valerie Hearst of OSU Extension.
- Walking the Walk and Biking the Town, about promoting safe walking and biking routes, presented by Kate Moening of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
Organizers request that participants register by Nov. 4. A downloadable, mailable form is available at ohio4h.org/statewide-programs/healthy-living.
Registration is $35 per person, which includes lunch.
“But if the registration fee hinders anyone from attending, we can work with them,” Riemenschneider said.