Youth soar like eagles with healthy minds and bodies

BY ALLEN A. BUCHANAN, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — The women of Alpha Kappa Alpha and men of Omega Psi Phi teamed up at the Enoch Davis Center last Sat., Jan 30 to host their annual Healthy Minds/Healthy Bodies Workshop to empower middle school and high school youth to take control and make sound decisions in their young lives. The workshop was sponsored by the Youth Development Foundation (YDF).

The half-day workshop started at 9:30 a.m. with a general welcome assembly of over 325 youth, parents and supervising adults of the Health Promotions Committee.  The highlight of the event was the breakout sessions for the parents, young women and young men.

Manitia Moultrie, director of YDF, spoke to parents about exercising due diligence in applying, completing and mailing college scholarship applications in a timely manner to increase the chances of having funding in place for their child’s college education. She also shared scholarship opportunities with parents.

Rod Cunningham reminded the parents in their group session that at the end of the day, their children—especially as they tread the unsure waters of adolescence—are looking for one guarantee.

“They want to know that you love them for who they are no matter what,” said Cunningham.  He chuckled with the parents knowing that it may not appear that way on the surface as their babies gradually evolve into complex young adults trying to find and define who they are.

Javan Turner, chairman of the Social Action Committee of Omega Psi Phi, summed up what the workshop for the young men hoped to achieve.

“This workshop is bringing together an understanding of the full ramifications of being in healthy relationships and taking care of your body and your mind,” said Turner.

He also emphasized that the session with the middle and high school boys was set up to be  “open and honest without any kind of repercussion for speaking their minds or asking questions that might otherwise be considered unacceptable.”

“They did very well with that. They were honest and respectful,” Turner said about the session that he and Jaih Jackson moderated with the young men.

When Jackson addressed the young men, he drew on a powerful analogy between two types of birds and two kinds of human beings.

“When you see an eagle, it is usually soaring by itself,” said Jackson. “But then there are the pigeons that travel in flocks, all of them doing the same thing just like some people who do something because the group is doing it. You see the eagle is independent like a leader who thinks for himself or herself. But pigeons all do the same thing without thinking about it just like some people follow the crowd to fit in. Don’t be a pigeon! Be like an eagle and soar high!”

In the meeting room next door, a huge word web covered the whiteboard where the middle school and high school girls met with Erika Duncan, 24, who is graduating in May with a master’s degree in Public Health Education from the University of South Florida.

Setting the mood for an honest discussion, Duncan had each girl write a positive word on the board.

“My objective is to empower the youth by providing them with the resources and by providing them with education and experience to help them accomplish goals in life,” said Duncan whose workshop focused in on healthy minds and healthy relationships.

“I think the girls connected with me because I made it clear in the beginning that I am a young adult just like many of them are becoming young adults, so they could be open and honest with me.”

She spoke with the girls about the dark side of relationships such as emotional, mental and physical abuse and knowing the differences between them. Since relationships among their peers can become very intense, Duncan told them to take 30 minutes at the end of the day and turn off any distractions and reflect on what happened during the day, why it happened, who was involved and if the  relationship is really healthy.

“A healthy relationship is compliments, not putting someone down,” said Alicia Ash, a workshop participant.

“Knowing good relationships from the bad and how you can conduct yourself by knowing what a good or bad relationship looks like, feels like and sounds like, “ said Miya White.

“You should know yourself and let no one pressure you,” said Miya Hughes.

One young man at the workshop summed up how African-American males can rise to the occasion by doing the unexpected.

“You know in a classroom they expect us to act out, but that’s where we need to be eagles not pigeons!”

After workshop activities wound down, all participants were provided with boxed lunches as they prepared to leave.

To reach Allen Buchanan, email abuchanan@theweeklychallenger.com

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