AHA’s Cardiovascular Youth Academy Pilot Program
Taking a lead role in the community, a group of students joined together with American Heart Association professionals to help spread awareness of cardiovascular health. Five students from Cathedral City High School’s Health Environmental Academy of Learning (HEAL) Medical Health Academy and three students from Palm Desert High School’s Health Academy have teamed up to reach into the community and educate their peers on everything they have learned.
Since this summer, the students have been working closely with members of the American Heart Association (AHA), obtaining knowledge to become experts on cardiovascular health. As part of the Cardiovascular Youth Academy, the brainchild of AHA Coachella Valley Chair–Elect Mr. Steve Weiss, students are able to demonstrate their leadership skills in an innovative and creative way.
Participating youth are the driving force of the program. Students developed a lesson plan with four main topics focusing on heart attacks, strokes, cardiovascular health, and “Life’s Simple Seven” (how to live a healthy lifestyle). They turned the lesson plan into a presentation, which was engaging yet, educational. With this, the students became student educators and presented their plan to various classes at their school, alongside a professional guest speaker. The result will eventually be a chain effect; students teach their classmates about cardiovascular health and then classmates educate more people on the topic. If they only educate one person, awareness will double in size.
Not only do the students present inside classrooms, they also spread awareness by reaching out to the whole school. The youth academy allows the students to tap into their creative side to help facilitate a yearly “Red Out,” which is a way of educating others about cardiovascular health and fundraising for the AHA. During the Red Out, the students try to engage the whole school to participate in the event by coming up with a fun challenge. Cathedral City High School and Palm Desert High School differ in their approaches, but both are still very effective.
A few students from Cathedral City High School took the program one step further working alongside the AHA to promote cardiovascular health on a larger scale. The students will be doing a community awareness project on cardiovascular health. They will be setting up a booth during lunch with information on the subject, creating a club at school to get other people involved, delivering presentations to various schools, going out into the community to make presentations, attending city council meetings to speak about the impact of cardiovascular health, promoting the Red Out walk, and finding sponsors for the walk.
The real success in the Cardiovascular Youth Academy concept is the experience and knowledge. Students are able to get out of their comfort zones and become instructors. They also build connections with professionals. The students are then able to take what they learned and pass it on. Why do it? For the greater good and health of the community.
For more information on this and other similar programs, please contact Donna Sturgeon, Director of Work-Based Learning for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership: Donna@cvep.com or (760) 340.1575 X204
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