Alum Working in Wellness with AmeriCorps
Recent UF graduate and SBS research assistant Johanzynn Gatewood is serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer working on a health and wellness initiative in California.
Currently, Johanzynn is developing a wellness program based off of two existing programs that are both in-school (focusing on physical activity) and after school (focusing on nutrition and family involvement). The team is consolidating these programs into one program that will be piloted as the Mayor’s Health Academy.
Johanzynn’s team will begin working with a cohort of kindergartners in three elementary schools. They chose kindergartners because they wanted to tackle obesity at the roots through prevention, and could begin instilling healthy habits at a young age. They hope to measure this cohort every year and track their progress in preparation for the California state physical fitness test in the fifth grade.
As part of the project Johanzynn’s team had to get buy-in from the City of Lancaster Neighborhood Vitalization Commission, made up of major stakeholders in the community (government, hospitals, the school district, etc.). Johanzynn got to present to this group and later the City Council about the project mission and objectives (see photo). Her team got a positive response from both the commission and City Council, and has already received funding from various hospitals, large medical groups, and local government to get the project running.
Johanzynn credits the SBS program with providing her with the skill set to accomplish many of her day to day activities with AmeriCorps. Specifically, she credits her involvement working on community projects at the Rural South Public Health Training Center, such as avatar usage in HIV/AIDS education, community assessments in student populations, and various other research opportunities that aided in preparing her to go into the front lines of tackling health disparities.
Johanzynn had this to say about the project:
“I originally thought that this experience in developing and implementing a community health program would make an impact on my professional development, but it’s going to make more of a meaningful impact on the future generation of those participating in our program.
The research has shown that overweight and obese children tend to be overweight and obese adults. We spend so much on treating obesity and its health effects when it really can all start at prevention. It can all start with simply teaching children the importance of eating healthy and being physically active.”
Congratulations to Johanzynn on this wonderful opportunity!