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Cooperative Extension assistants teach girls to be Healthy Divas
The pre-teen and teenage years can be tough for many girls as they deal with switching schools, self identity, changes to their bodies, and pressure from their peers and the media to look, act or think a certain way.
In Fleming County, two University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service assistants are busting stereotypes of the "perfect teenager" and helping fifth and sixth grade girls boost their self-confidence and self-image through the Healthy Divas program.
"A lot of girls think that everyone should look like a skinny model, but we try to get them to understand that they can look good without looking like a model," said Barbara Campbell, Fleming County Food Stamp Nutrition Education Program assistant.
Healthy Divas began two years ago and was conceived by Gwen O'Cull, Fleming County Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program assistant and Donna Fryman, Fleming County family and consumer sciences extension agent. The idea came from several similar programs showcased in the media. The first class of pre-teens named the program.
The program originally was offered to two of the county's four elementary schools, but has since expanded to all four with O'Cull and Campbell splitting time between schools. The Healthy Divas meet once a week after school. Participants are selected based on teacher recommendations of students who may find the program most beneficial.
During each session, the assistants address an issue that ranges from manners to maintaining the appropriate weight. They also allow participants to express themselves through writing or drawing in personal journals. In each session, the "divas" learn how to prepare a different healthy snack and engage in some type of physical activity.
"Sometimes, the girls go home and teach their parents something new," O'Cull said. "We can make a difference in their lives."
O'Cull and Campbell try to bring in several female professionals from the community as guest speakers to talk about possible careers, answer questions and give encouragement to the girls at each session. Many times the guest speakers will perform a service for the girls such as showing them different ways to fix their hair or how to use facial cleansers. Other speakers may teach them something new, such as how to sew or line dance.
"The girls are very receptive to what we offer them," Campbell said.
In the process, many of the participants have learned valuable lessons.
"I've learned how to take care of myself, stay active and be okay with myself," said Janie Parker, a Healthy Diva."I've learned how to take care of my teeth and my body and what I should eat," said Madison Fields, a Healthy Diva.
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