Health and wellness fair teaches youth about staying fit

Oteenie Wright III, an 11th-grader from Hope Charter School, classified himself as more of an observer than a participant at the Health and Wellness event held at the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology March 22.

Northwest area students as early as middle school began the event by spreading out in a dance studio and facing the mirror for stretches before Tete Pearsall, 17, taught them a few dance moves.

Wright stretched, but he avoided the dancing. He asked his peers how they felt seeing KFC, Pizza Hut and Chinese restaurants clustered on streets that also have a dialysis center. It’s as if people, he said, are being set up to fail.

Some replied that people needed to seek out the healthy options at fast food restaurants, but Morgan Hammer, a student at Drexel University’s College of Medical School who led the health discussion, said that simply cutting calories was not enough.

“It’s not just the calories,” she said. “You have to think it out. Luckily, (fast food restaurants are) getting better.”

The Foundations, Inc. program was broken up into three parts: an exercise routine, a health discussion and a cooking demonstration. And though the participants are called scholars, there isn’t a grade-based requirement, said Glenna M. Deekle, associate director for community education initiatives.

After exercising, students considered what about their health was in their control and what wasn’t.

Hammer explained how white pasta and bread had more added to it, and that people should look for the healthier wheat version. She also discussed how type 1 diabetes was inherited and type 2 was caused through what one eats, meaning, to varying degrees, diabetes is both beyond one’s control and quite controllable.

Tatyana Tucker, 15, a 10th-grader at New Media Technology Charter School, attended the event because she wanted to know more about how to eat well. She particularly struggles with sweets.

“I have a sweet tooth,” she said. “After I see it, I have to have it.”

Tatyana was hoping to learn more at the cooking demonstration that was held by Chris Bolden-Newsome and Tara Anastasi.

Bolden-Newsome passed out recipes for “perfect guacamole,” which he made with the help of the attendees. Each ingredient, such as avocados, red onions and cilantro, are very healthy, he said.

Before any participant came up to cut food, they were asked to wash their hands or use hand sanitizer, which sparked a conversation about which one was better. He explained that hand sanitizer killed both good and bad germs.

Bolden-Newsome also spoke of the benefits from eating cilantro.

“It rids your body of toxic, heavy minerals,” he said. “All that stuff builds in your body. Cilantro helps to push that out.”

The event ended with a healthy dinner, where participants ate the tacos and guacamole they helped make.

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