FLOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) – Just two years ago Highlands Health System, now Highlands ARH Regional Medical Center, and UK Markey Cancer Center partnered to create the ‘Youth Health Ambassador Program’.
This competitive two-year program showcases the knowledge and determination of area high school students.
“What we see as adults that maybe they were not taught about things before. The importance of making good choices, whether what they choose to eat or drink from a very early age,” said Melissa Hounshell, Community Outreach Director at University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center. “Health and wellness making good choices throughout folks life and have them go back to their respective elementary and middle schools and teach the young people.
As COVID-19 put a halt to most celebrations, “This was supposed to happen several months ago but we had to postpone it. So we are here with our masks and social distancing,” said Hounshell.
Four Eastern Kentucky high school graduates conquered yet another feat during a pandemic Completing the program. Youth Health Ambassadors Alexia Hall and Alison Campbell were chosen to represent Floyd County, and Jaxson Ratliff and Sarah Thompson represent Johnson county.
“It was very important for our community to train the next generation of leaders not only to benefit from them as students in future leaders in our community but also being able to relate to students was very important to us,” said Tim Hatfield, Community CEO at Highlands ARH.
Leaders like Jaxson Ratcliff.
“Health education is something that has always been real important in my life,” said Ratcliff.
Both his parents were physical education teachers. Along with his own interest in the medical field, he was recommended by his Bio-sciences teacher to apply for the program.
” It’s just so much fun getting to interact with the kids,” he said. “Watch them get into it and watch some ask questions and do things that are unprompted and come up and interact with parts of the presentation. It is really amazing to see them fall into it in just the 30-45 minutes that you’re in there talking to them.”
Using interactive models such as ‘Mr. Gross Mouth’.
“It has decayed teeth and this nasty, splotchy tongue. It is supposed to warn the kids about tobacco usage,” said Ratcliff. “With just having fun they also come out of it learning something and that’s what you have to do with kids that age; you to have to make sure that they enjoy it to learn.“
Also using Markey’s ‘Get fit, Be smart, Don’t Start’ curriculum.
“What we see as adults that maybe they were not taught about things before. The importance of making good choices whether what they choose to eat or drink from a very, very early age,” said Hounshell.
Yet Community CEO of Highlands ARH, Tim Hatfield, says not only is this partnership important for these organizations but the upcoming generation.
“It was very important for our community to train the next generation of leaders. Not only to benefit from them as students in future leaders in our community but also being able to relate to students was very important to us,” said Hatfield
As Jaxson Ratcliff agrees.
“I will leave and go to school and get my degree, I want to come back here because I mean really the medical field is so vast and there are so many aspects of it that if kids aren’t exposed to all of them then it can kind of narrow their view. So the more people that we have around here that do different things, than the more kids can be interested in seeing it.”
Each graduate received a $1,000 scholarship towards the school of their choice and a plaque to commemorate their time.
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