Hundreds of high school students. Thirty minutes. Three organizations. One goal.
During the lunch period at Lakewood High School students gathered outside of the cafeteria, eager to add their name to a banner that will hang in a school hallway. More than just signing their name, it was a pledge to make healthier lifestyle choices.
The event marked the kickoff of a new year of the student-led Health Squad. Students in this group work with school staff and representatives from Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to bring information and programming on health topics that matter to teens directly to the student body.
The Health Squad originally formed under grant funding from Florida Blue three years ago. It was an exercise in sustainability that is still going strong even though the initial funding has long since ended.
Today, however, the Health Squad has extra backing. Johns Hopkins All Children’s recently received a donation from Kohl’s for teen wellness initiatives, including support for the Health Squad.
“We are very fortunate to have a relationship with Lakewood and such an engaged student population,” explains Janelle Garcia, Ph.D., Fit4Allkids program coordinator who will continue to work with the school. “This is an exciting opportunity to reinvest in the Health Squad and the wellness needs of students.”
The $530,000 donation from Kohl’s will help Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital build and expand programs focused on the obesity epidemic among at-risk adolescents in underserved communities. The donation comes from the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program, which has supported community health and wellness programming at the hospital since 2006.
This donation will support initiatives designed to target obesity, food insecurity, and weight management resources and training for local adolescent providers, as well as healthy lifestyle campaigns at two high-risk Pinellas County high schools. Lakewood High School is the first of two schools to benefit from these funds. A second will be announced in the coming months.
“We see the impact of the obesity epidemic in our clinics,” says Raquel Hernandez, M.D., a pediatric physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s who specializes in the management of childhood obesity. “These teens are at risk for chronic health conditions including asthma, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, not to mention low self-esteem, and depression. Programs that provide the right support for these kids can truly create a life-long impact on their health. ”