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Youngsters learn about health, happiness

Approximately 200 youth from four counties came together last Thursday for the annual Regional Youth Summit.

Bridges, Inc., and Greenville Parks and Recreation in collaboration with Tuskegee University sponsored the summitt.

This is part of Project EXPORT, whose core areas of curriculum provide the organizational framework for carrying out programs and activities to reduce health disparities in Alabama's Black Belt.

All of this is part of Dunbar Community Center's Day Camp and summer programs.

Children from Butler, Lowndes, Dallas and Macon counties gathered to hear speakers and to learn about developing strategies for "Living Healthy, Happy Lives," which was this year's summit topic.

"This conference is trying to lay a foundation of a culture of good health for our youth," said Donna Smith, Bridge's Director. "We want our children to learn how to live healthy lives while they are young.

This summit emphasizes a holistic approach to health, including nutrition, exercise and life management skills."

Among the many guest speakers scheduled for the day's events, were Dr. Ella Bell, Area 5 State Board of Education representative,

and Anthony Pinkston, Butler County Coordinator of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Office.

"How do you plan to live a healthy lifestyle?&uot; Pinkston asked the group of young people.

"You have choices to make.

Your choice is your power.

Many times you may want to blame your parents for things that go wrong in your life, but you shouldn't.

They send you to school every day.

They do this for your own good.

Furthermore, you shouldn't blame your teachers because they are there for you every day."

Frank Hardy, of the Selma Youth Development Center, kept the crowd highly engaged with his presentation.

He introduced the Selma Dance Group, which was made up of several young ladies who performed for the audience.

He also presented three young men who gave excellent boxing demonstrations for the youth.

"Life is a fight just like in a boxing ring," Hardy said.

"In life, you will get knocked down.

It is up to you whether or not you get back up…If someone hits you in the face, you just get mad and want to hit back."

With this, Hardy explained how the boxing exhibition is not done with anger but with self-discipline.

"Good physical conditioning, such as in boxing, will stay with you throughout your life," Hardy said.

"I am 50 years old, and I'm in better shape than most guys who are 40.

The state of Alabama is the most obese state in the United States, and most of those numbers are found in the African-American society.

Most people think that earning a lot of money is the most important thing in life.

However, by age 50, they can't even enjoy the money they've earned because they are in such bad health. How you live today will determine your quality of life when you're older."

Hardy said, "I chose not to take high-paying, demanding jobs throughout my life just so that I could have more time for self-discipline, exercise and, ultimately, a high quality of life."

"I don't understand how people can wash their cars every Saturday, vacuum it and wax it religiously, but yet, they won't take care of their bodies.

You only get one body; you don't get another one when this one breaks down," Hardy said.

"We must take what God has given us and use it.

Don't make excuses for doing things you shouldn't do, and don't make excuses for not achieving and for not succeeding.

Use what is in your hands, and God will give you the rest," Hardy concluded.

Dr. Pamela Payne Foster, professor at Tuskegee University, specializes in preventive medicine in public health, especially in African-American groups.

"We focus on minority health issues, such as cancer, HIV, cardiovascular diseases, and the infant mortality rate.

We have been partnering with the University of Alabama and its Institute for Rural Health Research.

They have added immunizations to our list of focal points, and we really appreciate the work they have done with us," Foster said.

Donna Smith said, "None of this could have been done without the help of all of these people.

Jerome Harris, director of the Greenville Parks and Recreation, works hard to make sure that we have programs for the total development of our children.

It is so important for our kids to be well-rounded individuals.

Mr. Harris performs miracles at the Dunbar Community Center for us."

"Tuskegee University and the University of Alabama deserve a special thank-you for all of their programs, speakers and support that they have provided for our youth.

Thanks to everyone involved, our kids had a wonderful, positive experience," Smith said.