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Georgia 4-H promotes healthy lifestyles By Kristin Strickland

The fifth-graders chattered, but not about Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus or Selena Gomez. They were talking about the harmful effects of smoking and drugs.

After class, a small girl approached the 4-H agent who had led the discussion. “My momma smokes weed all the time,” said the little girl, “and sometimes she makes me smoke a blunt as punishment.”

The Georgia 4-H Health Rocks! program is designed to foster such an open comment. The 4-H agent thanked the girl and ultimately contacted the Department of Family and Child Services.

Fostering strong life skills

Health Rocks! gives volunteer adult and teen leaders training and resources, like simple activities and easy-to-follow lesson plans, to build strong life skills and decision making, said Richie Knight, a Georgia 4-H program specialist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

It encourages youths to avoid risky behaviors and teaches positive habits like critical thinking, stress management, peer pressure coping, effective communication and proper analysis of media messages.

“This is a chance for volunteers, clubs or counties to better their community through a fun, easy-to-teach healthy lifestyles program,” Knight said.

More than 8,000 reached

Last year, 30 counties sent 4-H agents, volunteers and high-school-age 4-H’ers to Rock Eagle 4-H Center for “Health Rocks! Ambassadors” training. Together, the ambassadors have instructed more than 8,000 youths ages 8 through 16. Georgia 4-H leaders teach Health Rocks! at multiple 4-H events throughout the year.

A partnership with Radio Disney put more than 500 Health Rocks! public service announcements on the air to 3 million youths and adults in metro Atlanta. The Disney partnership also created a healthy lifestyles event at Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta that attracted nearly 2,500 youths.

The 4-H and Radio Disney partnership hopes to double the attendance for the 2011 event, which will be July 30 at the Mall of Georgia in Buford.

Grants available

Georgia 4-H is awarding $500 grants to 4-H and other organizations interested in using Health Rocks! to promote healthy lifestyles to youths in their counties. For more information, go to the website www.georgia4h.org, or call (706) 542-4444. Grant applications are due by Feb. 25.

For more information on Georgia 4-H near you, go to www.georgia4h.org, or call 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

(Kristin Strickland is a 4-H news writer with University of Georgia Cooperative Extension.)

Health Rocks! Program
Health Rocks! Program

A group of Georgia 4-H'ers works together to solve problems using critical thinking during a Health Rocks! Program lesson.

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A group of Georgia 4-H'ers works together to solve problems using critical thinking during a Health Rocks! Program lesson. Download Image
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