Tag Archives: healthy eating

VolunTEEN: Not Simply a Chore

ferriss headshot1Guest Post by Ferriss Bailey
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Ferriss Bailey, a rising senior at Montgomery Bell Academy, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Ferriss leads service learning opportunities that address the environment.

The BELL Garden at Bellevue Middle School is a large, educational garden that is run by Liz Meeks and sustained with volunteer help. The garden contains more plants than most people even know exist, and it is a wonderful educational tool for students. However, it takes a substantial amount of work to keep it lush and thriving.

In my time as a Summer Youth Leader, I have been fortunate enough to lead four projects at BELL with volunteers of all different ages and backgrounds. Together, the volunteers and I enjoyed weeding, harvesting, and sometimes, even eating in the different beds.

One project particularly stands out in my mind when I think of my time at Bell. I was leading four volunteers, all of whom were around my age. We worked extremely hard, but it seemed like nothing! While we worked, we talked about our different schools and told funny stories, and by the end we had become great friends.

Certain projects like BELL can be extremely hard, especially when you are working in the hot sun. However, BELL and the other challenging projects are not simply a means to an end, but a great way to meet amazing people while doing important and impactful work.

Learn more about HON’s youth leader programs here!

Liz Meeks teaches volunteers how to properly water plants at the BELL Garden.
Liz Meeks teaches volunteers how to properly water plants at the BELL Garden.

Crop City: Local Chefs Visit the Farm!

With the 2013 Crop City program winding down here in its final week, campers were treated to a very special visit at the Hands On Nashville Urban Farm yesterday!

Local chefs Tony Galzin and Jo Ellen Brown stopped by and spent the morning whipping up a pair of delicious summer dishes for campers to enjoy. The demonstrations, part of Crop City’s unique farm-to-table curriculum, gave dozens of youth a first-hand look at how easy it is to create dishes that are not only delicious, but healthy as well.

Chef Tony’s squash salad and Chef Jo Ellen’s fruit dip were such a huge hit yesterday that we thought it would be a great idea to share the recipes with you.  Give one or both of these outstanding recipes a try in your own kitchen!

Chef Tony Galzin puts the finishing touches on his summer squash salad.
Chef Tony Galzin puts the finishing touches on his summer squash salad.

Summer Squash Salad

2 medium summer squash
1 bell pepper
6 cherry tomatoes
1 lime
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Cayenne pepper

–Wash all vegetables.
–Cut squash into 1/4 inch slices.
–Microwave in a plastic container with a little water for 2 minutes.
–Check to see if the squash is tender. If it’s not, microwave until cooked.
–Strain out water and put the squash in a bowl.
–Cut the pepper in half. Remove the seeds, and cut into small dice. Add to the squash.
–Cut the tomatoes into quarters and add to the rest of the vegetables.
–Cut the lime into quarters and squeeze the juice over the vegetables. Add the olive oil and mix.
–Season with salt, pepper, and a small amount of cayenne, and mix.

Yogurt Almond Fruit Dip

Chef Jo Ellen Brown slices apples for her yogurt almond dip.
Chef Jo Ellen Brown slices apples for her yogurt almond dip.

1 cup of Greek or plain yogurt
1/2 cup of peanut butter or almond butter
2-3 Tablespoons of honey
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

–Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk until the dip has a consistent color and texture. Serve with sliced apples.

Many thanks to both chefs for donating their time and expertise to help Nashville-area youth eat smarter and healthier!

VolunTEEN: What the Future Looks Like

Emily headshotGuest Post by Emily McAndrew,
HON VolunTEEN Summer Youth Leader

Emily McAndrew, a rising junior at Merrol Hyde Magnet School, is one of the four inaugural Summer Youth Leaders. During the four summer service weeks, Emily leads service learning opportunities that address hunger.

When thinking of the future, many adults fear that the new generation is too lazy, too self-centered, or too unenthusiastic to lead the nation. But in spending the past three weeks around teens who voluntarily give up their time to serve others, I can say without a doubt that this generation is ready to build a bright future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on the day of my first project. I was worried that the teens wouldn’t like me or that they wouldn’t listen to me. But as the volunteers came in, my fears were diminished. They were all here to serve and have fun just like myself!

I have led kids from all different backgrounds. Most of them have volunteered at multiple HON VolunTEEN projects. Through getting to work with these teens at different times, I have gotten to know some of them pretty well. Each volunteer brings a different aspect to the group, but I have learned that they each share one thing in common: a desire to make a difference.

Although the nation may have a preconceived notion that all teenagers are unfit to be the leaders of tomorrow, I have learned differently. I have met the most hard-working and selfless youth working with HON. These volunteers are our future.

Learn more about HON’s youth leader programs here!

Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.
Youth volunteers taking a quick break at Second Harvest Food Bank.

Notes from the Farm: Summertime Activity in Full Swing

By Josh Corlew, Hands On Nashville Urban Agriculture Program Manager

garlic4
Crop City participants show off some of the recently-harvested garlic

Welcome to summer!

We hope all of you had a wonderful Fourth of July holiday in the company of good friends, loving family, and (of course) delicious food!

Out at the Farm, these long summer days and warm summer nights are translating into a big growth spurt for many of our crops. Plenty of garlic has already been pulled, the tomatoes and peppers will provide a steady harvest for the next month and a half, our sunflowers are beaming, and the bush beans are taking off like wildfire.

There have also been some pretty significant changes made on the grounds of the Urban Farm over the course of the past month or so as well. Most notably, we have completed installation of the Butterfly Garden between our vegetable fields. This beautiful space will provide a great habitat for all of the beneficial insects that help make our vegetables healthy and happy. We encourage visitors to come enjoy the view of the new garden from one of the nearby swing sets!

Apprentices lead Crop City participants through a brainstorming game.
Apprentices lead Crop City participants through a brainstorming game.

As we mentioned in our last update, the summer youth development program Crop City is in full swing and will continue to take place every weekday until July 19. Over 200 youth come out to the Farm every week to participate in Crop City and learn about sustainable growing and the importance of healthy eating.

Overseeing all of this activity and leading the programming for Crop City is our talented team of 15 Urban Farm Apprentices. Our Apprentices have been doing an amazing job running the program and engaging Crop City campers while also gaining valuable leadership skills, and the program certainly would not be the success that it is without them!

Click here to learn more about each of these outstanding high school students who are making a real difference this summer.

Sifting compost is just one of many activities planned for the upcoming Urban Farm Summer Camp.
Sifting compost is just one of many activities planned for the upcoming Urban Farm Summer Camp.

Finally, we will be offering an Urban Farm Summer Camp program from July 22 to July 26 for 9- to 13-year old boys and girls. This curriculum for this camp will be very similar to that of Crop City, and it will also be led by our Apprentices. Participants will be immersed in an experienced-based learning environment full of delicious vegetables, colorful flowers, and a variety of fun and educational games. We’d love to have you join us for this fun and educational experience so click here to learn more and sign up!

And of course, if you have any other questions about the Urban Farm, please email me at josh@hon.org. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Farm updates throughout the growing season!

_________________________________________________________________________

josh2Josh Corlew is Hands On Nashville’s Urban Agriculture Program Manager. He oversees the organization’s efforts to engage volunteers in service opportunities that empower them to gain gardening skills, learn about healthy eating choices, and help address our city’s food access issues. An AmeriCorps alumnus, Josh also has a secret past life as a Trekkie (he’s a big fan of the TV series Star Trek, for the uninitiated among us), and he has been known to participate in death-defying canoe trips.

Meet our Awesome Urban Farm Apprentices!

We are so excited to introduce our truly amazing 2013 Urban Farm Apprentices, who have been training and working diligently to make the future of our communities brighter, one step at a time. All 15 Apprentices have gone through a rigorous application and interview process and weeks of training to become the rock stars they are today. 

This summer, HON Urban Farm Apprentices will lead groups of up to 60 of their peers through a curriculum built around agriculture, the food system, and healthy eating at our Youth Summer Camp and Crop City programs, both held at the fabulous Hands On Nashville Urban Farm.

Without any further ado, read on to learn more about each of these awesome young people!

2013 Urban Farm Apprentices (in alphabetic order):

GA2013-AminaAmina is a rising sophomore at McGavock High School. She loves food and enjoys being around others. She also loves being in the outdoors and is good at helping people.
GA2013-CarsonCarson is a rising junior at University School of Nashville. She is a scholastic-winning author and budding environmentalist.
GA2013-ChloeChloe is a rising senior at MLK. She loves listening to music and also enjoys ballet and meeting new people.
GA2013-DanielDaniel is a rising senior at MLK. He enjoys backpacking and whitewater rafting. He is interested in pursuing a degree in agriculture business.
GA2013-EmilyEmily attends Hume-Fogg High School, where she is a member of the GSA and the Fighting Disease Club. She served as co-captain of her school’s swim team and she enjoys making art.
GA2013-EmmaEmma is a rising junior at MLK. She is an avid gardener, aspiring writer, and LGBT rights activist.
GA2013-FarhiyaFarhiya is a rising sophomore at Hillwood High School. She enjoys reading books and getting to know new people.
GA2013-HaydenHayden is a rising senior atHume-Fogg. He loves running and juggling and is excited to work at the Urban Farm this summer. Hayden enjoys working outside and hanging out with other kids.
GA2013-JazminJazmin just graduated from Glencliff High School. She wants to do nonprofit and leadership work, and loves to volunteer.

GA2013-KatherineKatherine is a senior at Hume-Fogg Academic and is an event organizer for her Environmental Action Club. She is passionate about music, cooking, books, nature, and helping others. Katherine aspires to be a sustainable systems designer on a city-scale.

GA2013-LydiaLydea is a sophomore at Nashville School of the Arts, where she enjoys playing the cello and going to English class. Her favorite hobbies include reading books and ‘fangirling’ over Benedict Cumberbatch (go Sherlock!).

GA2013- MariaMaria attends Glencliff High School and is a rising senior. She is passionate about helping others and aspires to become a pediatrician. She also loves soccer and watermelon!

GA2013-NancyNancy is a rising sophomore at MLK. She enjoys playing soccer and volleyball in the summer with her church. She also plays ping-pong and has played the piano and clarinet. Nancy enjoys volunteering and reading books in her free time.

GA2013-RachelRachel is a rising senior at Nashville School of the Arts. She enjoys painting and is president of the National Art Honors Society. She loves to work out and stay healthy while maintaining a positive attitude and encouraging others.
GA2013-TerrellTerrell is a rising senior at Glencliff and describes himself as an Afrocentrist. He is plenty of things, one of which is an athlete. He runs or bikes to the Urban Farm every day.

Volunteer Leader Spotlight: Sarah Petschonek

Guest post by Sarah Petschonek-
This post originally appeared on http://confessionsofavolunteer.com

I lived in Nashville for about a year and when I first moved there, I knew I wanted to spend a good bit of time volunteering and learning about my new city. Through the extensive calendar at Hands On Nashville, I learned about an organization called The Nashville Food Project, which quickly became one of my favorite volunteer opportunities.

The Nashville Food Project is designed to create healthy food and deliver it by truck to the low-income areas of Nashville to ensure that everyone, regardless of their income, has access to a nutritious meal. The food they turn out of that tiny kitchen is amazing – like summer stir fry with beef or vegetarian lasagna. From the minute I walked into their offices I was hooked!

My shelf at The Nashville Food Project

There was fresh produce on every shelf and everything was incredibly well organized. It was clear that the team had fully embraced the idea of providing a rewarding and seamless experience for their volunteers. After a couple of times of volunteering, one of the project leaders suggested that I look into becoming a volunteer leader myself so that The Nashville Food Project, in cooperation with Hands On Nashville, could offer more meals each month. After a little arm twisting (ok, definitely no arm twisting required), I signed up to run the project on the fourth Sunday of every month for six months. Two months in, I moved back to Memphis, but I love the project so much that I continue to drive to Nashville each month to work with the project. If my count is correct, Day 25 of Mission Memphis marks my fifth time to lead a group for the Nashville Food Project.

The Nashville Food Project approach

This incredible project is housed in a small, unassuming building in the corner of a church parking lot. When I walk in for the project, there is a row of clipboards and one has my name and the date for the delivery. On a nearby shelf, another sheet displays what I’m supposed to prepare and take for the trip that day, and tells me the places we’ll be visiting.

About 70-80% of the food served is hot (like the veggie lasagna mentioned above), but on the weekend shifts we stick to sandwiches and fruit. Shortly after I get there, the volunteers start to show up to prep the sandwiches for the trip, which usually involves making 60-80 turkey sandwiches. One of the volunteers, Brittany, is there consistently each time I’m working, despite the fact that she is working two jobs and putting herself through school. While you can’t see all the sandwiches in this picture, the wonderful volunteers assembled 60 sandwiches for the delivery.

Volunteers Tram Giroir, Brittany Orpurt, Lisa Freeman

Generally, I experience a volunteer opportunity from the perspective of the volunteer, rather than the volunteer coordinator. This project is one of the few instances where I feel like the volunteer experience is up to me – that it’s my responsibility to make sure that each volunteer feels valued and appreciated. It always makes me a little nervous because I put a lot of pressure on myself to provide a meaningful experience. It’s nerve-racking because you never know who is going to show up (or if they’re going to show up), and most of the people I interact with are new to the project. When we get new volunteers, I make an effort to point out the map wall (as I call it), which highlights the different areas served by the project and includes a brief description of each location.

Map wall at The Nashville Food Project headquarters

When we have it, I also like to point out all the fresh produce that’s donated (hundreds of pounds) or grown in the garden out back.

Homegrown and gleaned produce at The Nashville Food Project

Before we leave, we take a few minutes to talk about guidelines for the volunteers and what to expect from the experience. I explain that most people will be very gracious and friendly, but sometimes people are grumpy and that’s ok. I tell them that I’ve never had any trouble on one of the deliveries and that it’s likely to be a rewarding experience, but sometimes people can be unpredictable and if anyone feels uncomfortable that we’ll leave. I just want to make sure that everyone feels as prepared and comfortable as possible especially if this will be their first client-facing experience in the area of hunger and poverty.

After prepping the sandwiches and covering the basics, we grab the fruit, hardboiled eggs, and any special produce and load up one of the two trucks for delivery.

Ready to roll with The Nashville Food Project truck

Once we get to the site, we’ll set up an assembly line to hand out the food, which on this run included turkey sandwiches, string cheese, apples and oranges, and hardboiled eggs.

Lisa Freeman, Adam Anghilnate, and Jessica Summers assembling a bag of food

Usually we also take bananas and those tend to be the most popular. I quickly learned that the soft foods tend to go quickly because many of the people who receive food might be missing most or all of their teeth. The first time I realized this I was shocked – not because their teeth were missing, but because it was so hard to tell! Many people alter the way they talk in an effort to hide their mouth. I’ve had entire conversations without realizing that someone was missing their teeth.

One of the many amazing things about this project is that I get the opportunity to visit the same sites each month, which gives me the opportunity to build relationships with the people we serve and to learn their stories. For example, one of our regular characters is Jack – an overweight Chihuahua who rides around contently in his owner’s wheelchair. Jack’s owner has a cowboy hat and a long beard and he seems happy to let Jack steal the show. I’ve seen them on every trip. Everyone knows him, but no one knows his real name. We all call him “Jack’s owner” and he typically peppers us with jokes on our visits.

The other incredible thing is what the experience does for the volunteers. When we leave from the church parking lot, everyone is pretty quiet, because they’re strangers to one another. So, I tend to run my mouth and ask everyone lots of questions to get them talking. On the ride home, my poor emcee skills are thankfully not needed – everyone talks about their common experience and swaps stories about the trip. The whole process is designed to build community in more ways than one.

I love this project for many reasons. I think there are two main things that really got me hooked in the first place. I love the idea that everyone is deserving of a good, nutritious meal rather than the scraps and cheapest food available. Everything that comes out of the kitchen at The Nashville Food Project is thoughtfully prepared to be good! It sends the message that we’re all equal and that everyone is worth the extra effort necessary to offer wholesome food. Second, this is a wonderful experience for volunteers because it gives you the opportunity to interact with the clients and it challenges your perception of what poverty looks like. It’s a rewarding experience for everyone involved. I wish I could duplicate this group and drop one in every city.

I could go on about this project forever. I love The Nashville Food Project. But instead, I’ll leave you with my favorite parting words from the Executive Director of The Nashville Food Project, Tallu Quinn:

“The daily story of the meals we serve reminds us of what we can do with that excess, of how we can reconfigure our lives with imagination so that we might be more concerned with others around us having enough than with making sure we ourselves have plenty.”

Interested in volunteering at The Nashville Food Project with Sarah? 
> View upcoming opportunities and sign up.

Notes from the Farm – Summer Camp, Neighborhood Picnics & Harvest Time

By Adams Carroll, AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Urban Agriculture Program –

Working in a garden is a rare luxury. There is no wifi or fluorescent lighting, but rather the privilege of experiencing heat when the sun is baking and getting wet when it rains. At the Urban Farm, all of my senses are activated. I love the crunchy prickles on a cucumber vine, the tremendous hues of our marigold and sunflowers, and even the rich, muddy aroma of our compost bins. Walking the dewy rows of our garden each morning, I think about the back-breaking work that volunteers have contributed all year long.

It took hundreds of dedicated volunteers throughout the course of several projects this spring to create the 70’x70′ field, where lots of delicious vegetables now grow.

Hundreds of inspired volunteers have sweated upon this land, cultivating our thick clay soil with garden forks, turning compost pile upon compost pile, weeding with white knuckles under the hot noon sun. Their labor has been remarkable, and the results produced so far are truly significant.

Farmer Josh, left, and the Apprentices take a look at the beautiful rows of squash. Yum.

July begins the summer harvest, a favorite stop on any garden calendar. Already we have pulled pounds of squash, beans, cucumbers, kale, and radishes. And each day new crops threaten to be delicious and ready. But even before our first vegetable was plucked from its vine, the Urban Farm was producing results. I have the pleasure of working with our eight youth Apprentices, who grow each day as notable leaders. When they started with us just five weeks ago, they were eager and energetic. And still they are, except now they are seasoned experts, adeptly directing volunteer groups, confidently explaining the finer points of natural stormwater management or organic pest control.

I have watched the apprentices fascinate a farm full of 13-year-olds with soil tests, and challenge their peers to read nutrition labels and check ingredient lists. It is rewarding to watch the Apprentices develop into advocates for the land and its products. I learn something from them every day.

Urban Farm neighbors joined us for a picnic in June. Farmer Josh gave a tour of the Farm, fielded questions, and gathered great input from the neighbors.

Two weeks ago, our neighbors joined us on the Farm for a picnic. I love to hear their stories. Some are heartbreaking – stories of commercial development upstream exacerbating Mill Creek’s destructive tendency to flood – and others just make you wonder. Did you know that before Wimpole Drive was developed into a neighborhood, it was a farm where buffalo grazed? I really appreciate the Farm’s role as a space for neighbors to congregate, to meet each other informally on dog walks in the morning, and to share stories like the legend of the buffalo. We are lucky to have neighbors who are so curious and involved, who support us and push us to cultivate a true community asset, not just a field full of vegetables. With such strong community partnerships, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Urban Farm will be a resource to serve Nashville for decades to come.

7 lbs. Squash + 2 lbs. Kale + 1 lb. greens = 10 lbs. of food harvested last week by Martha O’Bryan Center kiddos at the HON Urban Farm Summer Youth Service Camp.

Farmer Josh has blogged about our summer camp before. And still there is so much more to say! I am grateful to Bethlehem Centers, the Martha O’Bryan Center, Youth Encouragement Services, and the other local nonprofits who have brought youth volunteers out to serve on the Urban Farm. The volunteers have struggled under heavy loads of wood chips in temperatures that would send most teens running for the air conditioning. And of course, their hard work is paying off. All of the produce they have grown is donated to meet pressing food needs in their communities.

I do hope that the skills and experiences that they gain at Youth Service Camp will inspire our youth volunteers to tend their own gardens and make healthy nutritional choices. Recently, a film crew came dropped in on a Youth Service Camp session. You really should check out their video:

Do you work with a group of young people who would be interested in serving at the Urban Farm this summer? E-mail me at adams@hon.org to check our availability. We gladly host groups of up to 60 to engage in fun garden activities and service learning. I encourage youth ages 11-18 to sign up for some of our Friday VolunTEEN days. Here is a list of those opportunities. Come join us on the Farm to see what is growing in Nashville! You can read more about the Farm here.

30 pounds of vegetables harvested by Summer Camp participants at the Farm today!

A native Nashvillian, Adams Carroll serves as AmeriCorps VISTA Member for HON’s Urban Agriculture Program. He oversees the development of the Urban Farm Apprenticeship and Summer Youth Service Camp program. A bicycling enthusiast and dedicated bike commuter, Adams is a volunteer with Walk/Bike Nashville, the Oasis Center, and Free Bike Shop. His longest bike ride? 3,500 miles across 14 states.

Turtles, Picnic Tables, & Summer Camp at the HON Urban Farm

By Josh Corlew, HON Urban Agriculture Program Manager –

We have a lot of visitors on the Farm, each one bringing their own special gifts. Volunteers bring their willing spirit and hard work, donors bring the resources needed to keep our program going, our apprentices bring leadership and education, and our campers bring a youthful enthusiasm and curiosity. But there are also several non-human visitors on the Farm. Here’s a picture of one of the more unique visitors that our apprentices found last week:

Photo of turtle
Hi, momma Shelly.

We named him Sheldon initially, welcomed him to our space, and went about our day. Later that afternoon we came back to find Sheldon is actually Shelly… she had dug a nest in our tomato row! We’re not sure if she’ll be back to lay eggs or raise some tiny turtles, but we’ll keep an eye out for her.

Another favorite visitor to the Farm is Sally the salamander, and she helps keep the pests at bay:

Photo of salamander
Isn’t he cute?!

Last Friday one of our corporate partners, Deloitte, joined us for a day of impact. They built five new compost bins and two beautiful picnic tables for us. Here’s one of the cedar picnic tables:

Cedar picnic table
These picnic tables will provide a much-needed place to relax and take a breather for our Farm volunteers. Thank you, Deloitte!

This week was our first week of Summer Camp at the Farm. Every day we’ll have teens from area nonprofits coming out to learn and work on the Farm. Led by our apprentices, the campers learn about the food system, how to grow food, why it’s important to eat healthy food, and how to cook some simple recipes using farm fresh produce. Our schedules are booked from Mondays through Thursdays, but on Fridays we have room for other teens to come participate. If you’re 11 through 18 and would like to join us on the Farm on a Friday, just sign up here by clicking on one of the VolunTEEN opportunities. Learn more about the HON Urban Farm here.

JoshJosh Corlew is Hands On Nashville’s Urban Agriculture Program Manager. He oversees the organization’s efforts to engage volunteers in service opportunities that empower them to gain gardening skills, learn about healthy eating choices, and help address our city’s food access issues. An AmeriCorps alumnus, Josh also has a secret past life as a Trekkie (he’s a big fan of the TV series Star Trek, for the uninitiated among us), and he has been known to participate in death-defying canoe trips.


Yoga & Push-ups: Getting Active at Fannie Battle Day Home

Guest post by youth volunteer Hui Cheng —

It’s workout time at Fannie Battle Day Home for Children! This semester, the youth and I have embarked on a fitness adventure to combat childhood inactivity, and so far, everyone has loved every moment of it.

In the several months I’ve spent as a Fannie Battle intern, it’s been particularly important for me to introduce healthy physical activities that the kids can easily remember and replicate at home – because it’s shocking to learn how little time most spend being active.

Hui and the Fannie Battle kids play a game of "Human Knot."

With the rising popularity of addicting video games and the Internet, most youth just don’t think that going outside and exercising can be very enjoyable – or very important. Some of my youth don’t live near friends whom they can play with, and many have already-busy parents who just don’t have the time to greatly emphasize the importance of exercise.

Keeping those factors in mind, I decided to start the year with an activity that was fun and could be done on one’s own time – yoga. When I introduced the poses, however, I wasn’t surprised to receive a series of odd looks from my class.

“What on earth is a downward-facing dog?”

“I can’t twist my arms far enough this Eagle pose!”

Yet, as we moved through cycles of Sun Salutations, lunged in Warrior poses and struggled to balance as Trees, we grew gigglier and sillier. (Check out these photos of the kids busting out some yoga moves!) At the end of the class, the youth voted to have a yoga show-and-tell; each of us would teach the rest of the class our favorite pose. When I left, I knew I wouldn’t have to ask them to keep exercising when they got home; they were already repeating the movements on their own. “This is fun! Can we do this again?” a girl asked.

Preparing for the day's activities!

When I returned this month, my class was again eager to learn and eager to exercise. While everyone last week had enjoyed yoga, this week’s workout – a mini bootcamp – appealed much more to the boys. We did push-ups and tricep push-ups, V-ups and crunches, and even hopped around the room in a series of jumping squats.

“Will muscles help me get girls?” a boy jokingly asked.

We all laughed, but I couldn’t help feeling that he had touched on something vital. When I went home from Fannie Battle this Friday, I waved goodbye to the same cries of, “Can we do this again? This was fun!” But this time, I left with a new idea in mind. So far, all of my efforts were intended to persuade youth that fitness was essential to healthy living.  But perhaps, as this young man had mentioned, it could be linked to something more. Perhaps it was necessary to motivate my kids to exercise by pointing out how cardio workouts could help them run faster in soccer, or how doing push-ups would develop their biceps and help them pitch a ball faster in baseball.

Perhaps making fitness relevant to everyday activities could be more persuasive to youth than mere health and fitness alone – and in next month’s lesson, I hope to transform this young boy’s words into inspiration.

Hui Cheng, a senior at Martin Luther King Academic Magnet School, is one of 12 HON Youth Volunteer Corps Interns, serving in the inaugural 2011-2012 class. Each month, she plans and leads a fitness and nutrition focused activity that engages the children served by the Fannie Battle Day Home For Children after-school program. Hands On Nashville is now accepting applications for the 2012-13 YVC Internship program. Read more and download an application.