Choose Health Action Teens (CHAT): Refining the Model of Community Programs as Partners, not Just Recipients

Worksite Location
Project Dates
May 22 – August 9, 2019 (flexible based on student’s academic schedule)
Faculty Sponsor
Wendy Wolfe, Division of Nutritional Sciences
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Dr. Jackie Davis-Manigaulte, Lucinda Randolph-Benjamin, Carol Parker
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

The Family & Youth Development and Nutrition & Health program areas of Cornell University Cooperative Extension in NYC (CUCE-NYC), in collaboration with Dr. Wendy Wolfe at Cornell University, would like to build upon the dynamic Choose Health Action Teen (CHAT) initiative that was implemented in NYC in the summers of 2018 and 2019, with CHE Summer Interns playing a key role. In 2018, interns helped train 6 teens from throughout the city to teach Cornell’s Choose Health: Food, Fun and Fitness (CHFFF) curriculum to 150 children at 7 different sites, most not in the teens’ own communities. Last summer we employed a new model: interns helped recruit and train 7 teens employed as assistant counselors at Police Athletic League (PAL) program sites in Brooklyn and the Bronx to teach the CHFFF curriculum to youth in their own programs. PAL agency leaders were encouraged to also attend the training and provide ongoing support to the teen leaders. CHFFF is an evidence-based curriculum that uses hands-on activities and games to promote healthy eating habits and physical activity. The CHFFF and CHAT resources, developed by Dr. Wendy Wolfe, provide a high quality, sequential, engaging and positive youth development nutrition education experience for both the youth participants and the teens, who gain in leadership skills and also improve their own healthy habits.

For the next phase of this project, during Summer 2020, we plan to build on our experience conducting CHAT at PAL program sites. Last summer’s approach was well received by site supervisors and PAL program administration, but there were a number of logistical and other issues that arose, which we will address this summer. We will conduct the program in 4-6 PAL community sites and will focus on building the capacity of both the teen leaders and the agency staff by providing appropriate training and mentorship to each group, with the help of the Cornell intern. In addition to supporting and mentoring the teens, the Cornell intern will focus more intentionally than last summer on supporting the role of agency leaders to strengthen staff knowledge of the program, their ability to provide ongoing support to the teen leaders, and possibly to implement the project at their agency in the future.

The Cornell intern will also be trained in standardized data collection procedures for the EFNEP program, using age-appropriate national pre-post surveys, so that we can determine the impact of this CHAT initiative on eating habits and behaviors of the youth participants. Teen leadership and nutrition behavior changes will also be evaluated.

We feel that our revised approach will increase buy-in for the project among both agency leaders and the site-based teen leaders, and provide opportunities for reinforcement of the key principles of the CHFFF program throughout the summer and beyond. Local teens may be more effective in working with and influencing the children at their sites since they may live in the same communities, will work with the youth on a daily basis, and can serve as role models. In addition, agency leaders may be able to replicate the program with other teen leaders beyond the summer program, with training, support and coaching from the CUCE-NYC staff. By developing a cadre of agency leaders who are trained to implement the curriculum, we will be able to reach more youth and teens with the message of healthy eating and active living, especially if we can provide data regarding the impact of the program on eating habits of program participants.

OUTCOMES: Strengthen skills of agency leaders to implement healthy eating and physical activity programs within their respective agencies (based on the CHFFF and CHAT program models); increase awareness and behaviors of youth and teens in NYC related to healthy eating and physical activity; continue pilot of a new model for CHAT in which agency leaders are trained, along with the teens, to allow expansion of CHAT in NYC and to other areas of the state; further revise the CHAT Facilitator Guide based on learning from the summer experience and implications of the new model for program effectiveness.

Roles and Responsibilities

The student intern will provide ongoing support for implementation of the CHAT Initiative, including helping to train agency leaders and teens, on-site support for both groups during implementation of CHFFF sessions, and coordination of data collection for evaluating CHFFF and CHAT through standard EFNEP and 4-H Common Measures evaluation surveys and data submission. Interns will also assist with related family engagement and community outreach events as needed, participate in ongoing program debriefs with project leaders, make recommendations for revisions needed to the curriculum and/or program operations, and assist in development of program reports.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

The student should have prior experience working with youth (teens and/or school age youth), ideally in an urban setting(s). Beginning level coursework in nutrition, community health, family and youth development and/or research and evaluation is strongly desired.

Benefits and Skills

Through this engaged learning experience, the intern will develop an understanding of the realities of implementation and evaluation of community-based nutrition and positive youth development programs in a large urban setting, as well as curriculum development, and family and community engagement/outreach.