June 19, 2008

Collaboration—among university programs, students and staff—spurs National Youth Sports Program

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Adult-like health issue—obesity, high blood pressure and more—are beginning to take a toll on American children, and the people who coordinate the Case Western Reserve chapter of the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) have committed to helping Greater Cleveland children get or remain healthy during a five-week summer camp.

Over 400 children ages 10-16 are taking part in the NYSP camp, in session now through the week of July 7.

NYSP is celebrating 40 years on the national level, and the university's chapter will mark its 38th year on campus with an open house beginning at 10 a.m., June 20 at Strosacker Auditorium. Campus community members are invited to come out to watch a video presentation, tour educational and athletic workshops, hear testimonials from several NYSP alumni, and interact with the camp's children and staff.

The NYSP camp is a collaborative effort involving dozens of people and programs from the Case Western Reserve community.

According to information available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site, childhood obesity—one of the issues addressed during the camp—could lead to health risks such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as Type 2 diabetes. "As a variety of adult-like health issues continue to increase for many youths across the nation, one of our main goals at NYSP is to teach young people how to adopt healthier lifestyles through fitness and nutrition," said Dennis Harris, the university's director of youth programs and the NYSP project administrator.

To ward off some of the health issues, camp participants get at least three and half hours of physical activity per day by swimming, playing basketball or softball, or engaging in other physical activities. In addition, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing and School of Medicine students conduct health screenings for NYSP participants. The medical students evaluate the campers for the sports activities, while the nursing students check the children's blood pressure, height, weight and other pertinent information. Gayle Petty, assistant director of the bachelor in science of nursing program, said if an NYSP participant is diagnosed with a medical ailment, follow up care with a family physician is required.

Although adult health issues may seem like a lot for children to comprehend and relate to, Ebony Hardee, a Frances Payne Bolton alumnus and NYSP's medical coordinator, gave an example of a fun, creative way the children learn about making healthy choices. "Campers are divided into small groups and they are asked to design their own restaurants with a theme. They are to create five dishes on the menu, and they have to count the calories in the dishes. They then need to identify what types of exercises they would need to do to work off the calories," said Hardee, who began working with NYSP at age 15 as a camp aide.

Over 50 Case Western Reserve students, alumni and employees assist with the NYSP camp in other capacities, including serving as academic lecturers, camp counselors and administrative supporters. The exposure to the university's campus and people has encouraged several NYSP participants throughout the years to pursue higher education opportunities both here and at other institutions, Harris said.

Irene Lee, associate professor of chemistry, has conducted labs for NYSP participants for the past couple of years. "We do demonstrations involving dry ice. They have fun and they're really smart," she said.

"I want them to get acclimated to and feel comfortable within the university setting," said Ana Badillo, NYSP's education coordinator. As a result, more university professors have expressed an interest in participating in the program. For instance, NYSP students will soon visit the robotics lab of Roger Quinn, Arthur P. Armington Professor of Engineering. Badillo said other professors who are interested in conducting demonstrations or leading an educational discussion are invited to contact NYSP.

Lauren Dudley, a nursing and sociology student, began working behind--the-scenes last year. This time around, she is front and center, coordinating the program's administrative efforts, and working directly with the children and their parents. She'd like to combine her nursing background with NYSP's overall efforts. "My big dream is to work with the National Youth Sports Program on a corporate level: Raising funds, setting up the program in other areas and helping to enrich the quality of life among our youths. I have learned so much about myself—as well as NYSP—since I began working with the program. I have learned to not allow small things to distract me from the bigger picture: The kids."

To RSVP for the open house or find out more about NYSP, contact Harris via e-mail, or by phone at 368-4843.

For more information contact Kimyette Finley, 216.368.0521.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, June 19, 2008 12:59 PM | News Topics: Athletics, College of Arts and Sciences, Community Outreach, Faculty, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, HeadlinesMain, Healthcare, School of Medicine, Staff, Students, news

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