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Afterschool Program at 11th Street Teaches Teens About Self-Care, Health and Wellness

August 14, 2013 — By Mary Green, Assistant Clinical Professor of Nursing

Mary Green & kids 11th Street cookingNursing students at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions have the opportunity to experience and learn about 11th Street Family Health Services and the surrounding community while they complete their community public health clinical rotations out of the health center. One of the options that the nursing students have during their rotations is to work with the children and teens who participate in programming at the John F. Street Community center (JFSCS), located next door to 11th Street.

There has been an ongoing collaboration between the health center and the JFSCS since the earliest plans were made to build Drexel’s 11th Street Family Health Services.  We work as partners to provide healthy services to the surrounding community. The Boys and Girls Club of America have a well-established afterschool program, “The Fairmount Boys and Girls Club Afterschool Program,” which operates on site at the JFSCS.  There are an approximately 75 – 80 children and teens enrolled in that program.

Drexel nursing students teach health promotion programs and engage with the enrolled children. The Teen Afterschool Program in particular has evolved and now takes place at 11th Street on a weekly basis throughout the school year. We have found that offering the teens the opportunity to participate in sessions outside of the usual program site has provided them with many additional rewarding and exciting educational and health service opportunities.

Coordinating these efforts is a collaborative process for all of us: the teachers and administrators from the Boys and Girls Club Afterschool Program, Jennifer Ford (11th Street Health Education Outreach Coordinator), her Drexel co-op student, and me. The afterschool program has been a great success! The young teens are able to experience a broad range of health care services, including creative and integrative health classes such as yoga with Kathleen Guidotti- Metzgar, 11th Street’s Complementary and Integrative Therapist and yoga instructor. The teens have participated in health education sessions on how to care for themselves in relationships, moderated by 11th Street’s Nurse Practitioners or an OB/GYN physician from Drexel’s Medical School. Our nursing students additionally presented a session to them on self-care and gave the teens gifts which included deodorant, a water bottle, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo. We are able to provide the young teens with health education from many different professionals: the Nurse Practitioners, an exercise physiologist and a nutritionist, not to mention the comprehensive health education delivered by the nursing students.

Teaching the children and young teens  the most current, reliable, and appropriate health information in terms that they are able understand is so important, and we provide it safely and creatively through the many disciplines during the afterschool sessions. The nursing students, co-op students, Outreach Coordinator, and Nurse Practitioners value the opportunity to teach the teens about caring for themselves and to help the teens understand preventive health care. Mary Green & kids 11th Street cooking

I had a chance to talk with 8 of the young participants individually. They were very enthusiastic and happy to share with me their experiences in the afterschool program at 11th Street. When I asked them to think back on the many different activities that they participated in over the past year and tell me what they liked the best, they said that they had a lot of fun tracing and drawing life-sized silhouettes of themselves on paper and then going around the room to each other’s silhouettes and writing positive remarks about their peers. One participating teen shared that the exercise gave her the opportunity to share with her friends the many positive things that she feels about them that she does not ordinarily say out loud. They also really enjoyed making bead and macramé bracelets, learning about different careers, and preparing for job interviews. 

One of the young ladies, a patient at the health center, said, “I like that we can go to 11th Street because it is close and in my neighborhood. I can go there to talk about my problems or just to have fun in the afterschool programs. I have enjoyed the cooking class. I already know how to cook but I like the classes and learn to cook and prepare different foods. I also go for my shots at 11th Street Family Health Services and I like to see Ms. Connie (my nurse practitioner) because she is easy for me to talk to.”

On a hot August morning, we invited the teen girls from the Boys and Girls Club to the urban garden at 11th Street to pick some vegetables. They picked the different varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, basil and summer squash we have growing there. One of the girls is looking forward to visiting the garden at 11th Street later in the summer to see if the pumpkin she planted is growing. The girls all left for the day feeling accomplished, with a summer squash in hand to take home to their families.

They also retrieved a big basket of tomatoes to prepare later on in a cooking class. In the multipurpose room at the John F. Street Community Center, the girls were very engaged as we used those tomatoes to assemble a snack. They were enthusiastic about preparing the foods but not all of them were interested in eating what they prepared. We had fresh mozzarella cheese, freshly picked cucumbers, and tomatoes on pita bread with balsamic vinegar or ranch dressing, their favorite!

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