Students Become Teachers at Teen-Led Health Expo

older children standing behind a table with fruit juice on it and instruct younger children

Participants in our Mission Thrive Summer program buzzed with excitement yesterday as the health expo they’ve been planning officially opened. Held at the Rita M. Church Community Center in Baltimore’s Clifton Park, the expo was a way for students to share what they gained during their six-week experience. Nine stations created by the teens showcased how to be healthy to more than 100 attendees. 

Nijah, a senior at Digital Harbor High School, co-designed and ran a station highlighting nutrition. Having a family history of diabetes, she wanted to share the importance of healthful eating, which she learned through Mission Thrive Summer. Now she wants to “warn kids about diabetes early on in their lives and make sure they know how much sugar they are eating.”

Mission Thrive Summer not only allows students to recognize lifestyle changes they can make; it shows them how society needs to change as well. “I think that we need to have healthier options at school,” Malik, a junior at Patterson High School, realized. “They could put out salad or fruit. Students need the option to eat healthy.”

The health expo, which marked the culmination of Mission Thrive Summer, included several demonstrations. Jonathan, a junior at the Baltimore School for the Arts, demonstrated knife safety and how to properly cut produce. He said Mission Thrive Summer’s leadership training component gave him the confidence to present himself professionally.

Derrick, a freshman at Green Street Academy, co-created and operated a station featuring the sport of running and the importance of physical activity to encourage children to start exercising at a young age. Mission Thrive Summer taught Derrick how exercise can prevent disease and be used as a calming tool. “I meditate [now] and do exercises almost every morning,” he said.

Mission Thrive Summer also made an impact on Janea, a sophomore at REACH! Partnership School. She learned about the necessity of adequate hydration. “Before, I had no idea you were supposed to drink 64 ounces of water a day,” she said. That seemed like a lot to her at first, but she says she now drinks well over 64 ounces using a water bottle she received from the program.

At the expo, Janea and her teammate presented “Chicken Out of the Box,” a food sampling station where attendees discovered a healthier alternative to traditional fried chicken. They demonstrate why it’s important to cook with healthy oils:

The health expo attracted people of ages, including 19 teens from the Kentucky YMCA’s Y-Corps, who were on a 10-day community service trip across the northern United States.

Anna Billhymer, a Kentucky Y-Corps participant, expressed the group’s excitement about interacting with Mission Thrive Summer students: “It was super cool to see (them) so involved. Coming from Kentucky, we’re not used to urban farming. They really taught us some cool things.”