The students in Meg Pietkiewicz’s Winter Park High School (WPHS) marketing and entrepreneurship classes have become missionaries of good health in a teenage world where junk food and soda have reigned supreme—at least in the past.
These days, the marketing students, who have created and run the program called Live.Life.Healthy (LLH), coordinate health fairs, operate a bike sharing program, and set up “mobile quick kitchens” to teach students how to assemble fast, affordable, and healthy snacks, offering samples and recipes.
Next year, with a new grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF), they hope to build on this success and share their message with students at the 11 elementary and middle schools feeding into WPHS.
LLH has taken off.
Launched about three years ago with grant support from WPHF, LLH was created to generate a buzz among the students of WPHS about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It was hoped the healthy messages would carry more weight when delivered by a fellow student.
And they have. For example, the recent Food Revolution Day hosted by LLH drew about 450 students, and the bi-monthly mobile quick kitchens reach 350 to 400 students during each cooking session. In addition, students not in marketing classes have asked to be involved in the LLH initiative, so a LLH Student Club has been formed and more than 150 signed up as interested in becoming members.
As LLH students wrap up a third year and prepare for the next, Ms. Pietkiewicz, who coordinates the program, noted, “We are continually pushing the boundaries on what the idea of healthy eating and cleaning living really means for the high school teenager. We work on strategies that will keep our target market engaged with our message.”
Five core events they plan to continue next school year include the mobile quick kitchens, the health and wellness fair, the Food Day celebration, participation in the Winter Park Ninth Grade Center’s AP Human Geography Food Festival and Food Revolution Day.
This year’s Food Revolution Day, a global campaign to spread food education, included a wide range of activities. Students grilled organic meats and had booths featuring healthy snacks, information on genetically modified foods, educational materials on vegan vs vegetarian diets, and a demonstration of the amount of sugar in popular food items.
There also was a produce stand where students and WPHS staff could grab a supply of fresh fruits and vegetables, a smoothie bike to pedal to make fruit smoothies and a human hamster wheel invented locally by Joe Donough. One of the most popular activities at the event, the person-powered wheel crushed ice for snow cones.
Next year students also plan to continue to spread their messages via social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and through the development of public service announcements for use at 11 elementary and middle schools feeding into WPHS. In addition, one LLH student will be paired with each feeder school to serve as a LLH “mentor” to the school.
“We are so proud of what has been accomplished by the students in Live.Life.Healthy,” said Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President. “They took an idea, gave it life, supported it with enthusiasm, and made it a success. They are changing the lives of their fellow students, one healthy habit at a time. These habits will serve them all well the rest of their lives.”