The idea to engage a student representative on the Winter Park Health Foundation’s (WPHF) Board of Trustees first took root during a Trustee Dialogue eight years ago. During that meeting, the Trustees heard a presentation by Mark Brewer, CEO of the Central Florida Foundation, about the five living generations at the time. The presentation stimulated discussion on the role of youth in community organizations, including the WPHF, and the ways in which a youth representative would both be a benefit to, and benefit from, serving on the Board. A decision was made late 2008 to recruit a college student to serve on the Board. A search was on for a representative who demonstrated a commitment to our community and was seeking an opportunity to serve on the Board of a charitable organization. At the time, the Children & Youth Work Group (CYWG) had already engaged the youth voice to inform its work and to this day, students from Winter Park High School are represented on the CYWG.
In 2009, the WPHF Nominating & Governance Committee considered applications from fifteen strong applicants vying for the new student position on the Board of Trustees. One application stood out leading to the nomination of first-year University of Central Florida’s (UCF) College of Medicine medical student and Winter Park native Tiffany Chen to serve a two-year term on the WPHF Board. Having attended Aloma Elementary, Glenridge Middle and Winter Park High schools, Ms. Chen (now Dr. Chen) was a logical choice and served as the student trustee on the WPHF Board during 2010 and 2011.
Today, Trustee member and UCF College of Medicine student Courtney Wagner, cherishes the role of providing a younger generation voice and in return has gained a unique perspective which is helping shape her future. When asked what experience she has gained, Ms. Wagner reflected “participating on the Board of Trustees takes me out of the classroom in a meaningful way and has exposed me to innovative initiatives for improving the quality of life and health for our community. I cannot help but share the projects WPHF supports with my fellow classmates, professors, and physician mentors. My passion in healthcare is the aging population but some of my favorite projects are the collaborations between the Foundation’s Children and Youth Work Group and the Older Adults Work Group to support efforts like the Cyber Senior program where participants benefit from the inter-generational interactions. Additionally, I have had the honor of getting to know other Trustees and Work Group members who serve as an inspiration from a variety of backgrounds.” Ms. Wagner further shared “WPHF is actively shaping how I will practice as a physician and contribute to my community in the future. I now realize it is up to me as a physician to seek out initiatives and projects like the ones WPHF supports so my patients can benefit beyond my care. While I went into medicine striving to be the best physician possible, working with WPHF has taught me the value of expanding that goal past the walls of my practice to discover the unique health needs of my community and to work with others towards solutions.”
For the last few years, the CYWG has engaged student members from the Live.Life.Healthy (LLH) initiative at Winter Park High School (WPHS). Students involved in LLH bring to the table a passion for health and wellness, both in their own lives and in the lives of their fellow students. They also bring a keen perspective on how to deliver important health and wellbeing messages in a manner that is effective in reaching children and youth. This past year, the CYWG was fortunate to have two LLH students serve on the Work Group – Haley Grasty (on left in photo) and Rebecca Dickinson. Although both have graduated and transitioned off of the Work Group to attend college at University of Florida and Coastal Carolina University, the impact of serving on the CYWG and connection to the WPHF will be a long lasting one.
Ms. Dickinson shared, “It was a great experience to learn how a board room actually works in the real world. In college, where I am a member of the lacrosse team, our coaches watch what we eat so all of the healthy habits I learned while in Live.Life.Healthy will help me during and after college. I enjoyed being a part of the advisory group meetings and contributing when I could on certain topics. From this I have learned how to be a better speaker in front of others. It was also wonderful to meet everyone! Everyone on the CYWG was amazing and it was great to meet leaders who I had heard of prior to this experience.” Ms. Grasty added, “I will make sure to continue eating healthy and drinking water, and help my friends do the same in order to keep off the ‘freshmen 15’ – next year and forever!! I’m really happy to have been involved with such a positive organization that is there simply to better the lives of students and people in our community.”
For the 2016-17 school year, the CYWG welcomes Sarah Wire, who is also involved in the LLH initiative. Ms. Wire is a Junior at WPHS and has participated in LLH activities including mobile quick kitchens, Food Day and Food Revolution Day. She has an interest in pursing a career in pediatric nursing. When asked to describe her philosophy on health and involvement in LLH she stated, “I include physical activity in my everyday schedule. I like to motivate the people around me to live healthier lives by eating better foods and exercising daily. I have realized the effects food has on my body. I have made changes to the things I eat and drink. I eat less junk food and more fruits and vegetables.” Ms. Wire indicated she is very excited to serve on the CYWG and help provide the youth voice and perspective.