Students at Green Oaks Performing Arts Academy in Shreveport are getting some real-world experience to help prepare for their future health and well-being through LSU AgCenter-sponsored educational programs.
The school-based outreach focuses on strengthening leadership and communication skills and is part of a $600,000 Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded to the AgCenter in 2014.
Students learn about nutrition, physical fitness, science, leadership, workforce preparation, career exploration and financial management through participation in hands-on learning opportunities.
Green Oaks Principal Steven Grant said the programs expose students to new concepts, and they open a window for students to see their potential.
“The project has opened doors for the AgCenter to reach new audiences through collaborations and partnerships,” said Caddo Parish 4-H agent Katherine Pace.
Students in middle school physical education classes at Green Oaks received fitness trackers as a part of the physical fitness program, and they logged their steps and calories burned each day. They also learned about their heart rates and how to check their own pulse. At the conclusion of the program series, the students logged 1,446,804 steps and 103,682 calories burned, and 68% of them reported that they now pay more attention to how active they are each day.
“Incorporating a fitness component this year fits into our curriculum and teaches how to live a healthy lifestyle and stay active while building some self-esteem these students need,” physical education teacher Jessica Elie said.
Seniors at Green Oaks participated in the Living Your Financial Experience (LYFE) curriculum. The series of lessons taught youth about potential careers that would match their personality types, how to read a paycheck, and the various taxes and deductions that impact their “bottom line” each pay period. In addition, students practiced banking skills, budgeting strategies, paying bills and writing goals that are SMART — specific, measurable, attainable, and realistic or relevant.
At the conclusion of the lessons, local business members were recruited to assist with a real-life simulation where students had to determine needs versus wants, make informed purchasing decisions, develop a budget, and balance an account based on a career and salary that was provided to them.
“I realized quickly that I couldn’t buy the car I wanted and have a big house, or I was going to run out of money!” said student Taylor Ford.
The CYFAR project also sponsored a community-based teen leadership summit that aimed to strengthen students’ goal setting, communication and leadership skills for Green Oaks students while also supporting a regional 4-H Leadership Summit that hosted over 300 teens from 12 northwest Louisiana parishes. For the past two years, high school students from Green Oaks attended this youth leadership summit held at area universities. Surveys found that most of the attending students became more aware of career options.
“As a result of participating in the 4-H Leadership Summit the first year, 99% of students indicated they agreed that they realized they can impact others,” said Karen Martin, LSU AgCenter Northwest Region 4-H coordinator.
As a part of the summer program, youth visited university campuses and learned about the degree programs and opportunities to further their education beyond high school.
“We planned a series of field trips during the summer to integrate our spring classroom activities with hands-on application in the real world of work and college,” said LSU AgCenter CYFAR program assistant Jessica Sherrill.
The CYFAR program has provided several professional development opportunities for the Green Oaks faculty and other community members, providing a knowledge base for them to implement the programs throughout the school year so that these programs can continue once the grant no longer exists. One new course, a science in the garden curriculum, was developed as a part of the CYFAR grant and will be taught in the future.
4-H members are five times more likely to graduate college.