Wonderful Waco, lots of Nutrition, and some Zumba… What a summer.
by Kaylyn Schultz
I’m a big believer in the idea of “loving where you live”. Not just ‘liking’ where you live but loving it—loving the city, its spirit, and its people. Loving on the people (those amazing fellow Wacoans) and helping out those people in any way one can—whether it be mighty and life changing or the little everyday random acts of kindness. This summer I had the incredible opportunity to help our city and some of its people in my own way. It was a blessing and a wonderful, eye-opening experience. I was given an internship at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.
Now I saw pictures of some of the more exotic places my friends went off to for their internships (*cough cough* HAWAII.) and may have sighed once or twice with longing after that more glamorous summer life. However, staying in Waco, Texas, was definitely the best fit for me and for a couple reasons. One, I had to take a British Literature class and being in the same city as your class is usually a good plan to accomplish said class. And two, I really wanted to learn what my city and its people needed from a health standpoint. Let me tell you: I got a good picture.
I got to work on a few projects in my internship. I was in charge of running all social media platforms for the Health district (Cue shameless plug. Go ‘like’ the Health District on Facebook!) and updating their website for Live Well Waco (check that one out too. It’s pretty awesome). I got to have so much fun and learned a ton about reaching out to people and getting their attention. I was also a part of the Health district’s Our Children, Their Nutrition team. This program, OCTN, was created to bring nutrition education to children ages 8-12 years old. This is a crucial age and we want them to be armed with a full arsenal of nutrition knowledge so they may make the smartest choices concerning food. We taught kids detailed nutrition information and tips like the amino acids in protein, the different kinds of carbohydrates and fats, and to check the color of their urine in order to see how hydrated they are! [That last one really seemed to stick with them all for some reason!] I was also fortunate enough to help out with the 8 Week Zumba Challenge!—I have consequently discovered that I really love Zumba and want to become an instructor. I gave a short nutrition lesson before the workouts started and tied in how these parents can take it home to their kids and stop poor dietary habits before they begin. I also got to hold some babies while their awesome mommas got to work out and I didn’t mind one bit.
And I loved it all.
I was all over Waco, sometimes all in one day, teaching nutrition and health and spreading awareness for exciting opportunities to improve people’s wel-lbeing. I got to experience some awesome things. But also some not so awesome things.
I loved teaching the kids for OCTN. They are absolutely hilarious. That time frame of life, 8-12 years, is certainly an interesting time. At 8 years old they are DESPERATE to be called on. They want to answer a question. They’ll raise their hands even if they have absolutely nothing to say. They just want to show they are making the effort. It is so sweet and they still give hugs! At 9-10 years old, they learn SO quickly. They grasp the scientific side of nutrition well and ask further questions. (One time, we were asked how salt is made. Uhhh… Mind blown.) They don’t want to be considered young like the 8 year olds and they look up to the 11-12 year olds. Then… something terribly scary happens. They want to be “cool”. Desperately. [Dun Dun Dahhhhh!] Our beautiful, funny, sassy, intelligent 11 and 12 year olds just wanted to look cool in front of their friends. And, unfortunately, answering our questions and being respectful isn’t what the ‘cool’ kids are doing. These kiddos were by far the most challenging. But they certainly gave me the best stories.
On DAY ONE, a 12 year old boy said to his friends as I walked away (and so he apparently thought out of earshot) that I am “hot”. Ladies, haven’t you always dreamed of being called ‘hot’ by a twelve year old?? Dreams coming true here folks. Another day, while I was actually leading the lesson on dietary fats, one 11 year old boy winked at me as I walked up to his table. Oy vey. I swiftly kicked him out. Now, I can appreciate the hilarity of this ‘compliment’ of sorts perhaps in another situation. Though maybe not one in which I am in a teaching position and am 10 years older than the giver of the wink. All of this was explained to him and he was allowed back in for the snack. [*cue awkward eye contact here*] You’d think he expected me to thank him. How are 11 year old boys so confident?? I had to talk to some of my guy friends here in Waco to attempt to glean some sort of understanding into the 11 & 12 year old male mind… as you may imagine I did not have much luck. They don’t even understand their own minds is the best I could come up with.
While some lessons left me laughing and shaking my head in wonder, others left me somewhat heartbroken. One day, at one of our three locations, I was tying a braided yarn bracelet this little lady had made in our activity part of the lesson that day. She looked up at my face and asked if I was wearing makeup, to which I replied “Yes, some mascara.” She then told me that she likes “the stuff that makes your skin lighter”. I asked if she meant foundation, the stuff that makes skin all even toned. She said yes… because she doesn’t like the color of her skin, it’s “too dark” she said. This sweet, beautiful, incredible, smart little girl told me she wished her skin was lighter. I needed a moment. I then told her that makeup like that is for hiding things and she had absolutely nothing to hide. I told her that her skin is beautiful, smooth, flawless. Now why in the world wasn’t she hearing this every day at home? Why??? We, unfortunately, are surrounded by things telling us, especially women and young girls, to compare ourselves to others, that the way we are just isn’t quite good enough. Improving ourselves in order to be healthier is one thing, disliking how God made us is another matter entirely. Negativity is everywhere. However, something I will take from these beautiful, fun-loving kiddos is, no matter what’s going on in my personal life or in the stress behind the scenes, I can still be happy, positive, and kind to those around me. I’ve learned that whether someone is struggling with their weight, causing chronic health issues or if their struggle is on the inside and they’re dealing with something along the spectrum of mental health, we can all be kind, take it seriously, and be aware of what a simple encouraging word can do for someone. I’ve learned how important education and spreading the word about the importance of being active every day are. I’ve learned how I can help people to learn how important it is to really understand the food we put in our bodies. And I’ve learned it doesn’t take too much to begin to make a difference.
It starts with kindness and encouragement. Throw in some fun, maybe versatile nutrition education, and some opportunities to come together and get active. We may just end up with a healthier, happier Waco for generations to come. I’m so thankful to the Public Health District and can’t wait to start the rest of my life, helping people, and trying to make a positive difference in their well-being.
Lots of love to you beautiful people.
This Act Locally Waco blog post was written by Kaylyn Schultz. Kaylyn is originally from Celina, Tx and is going into her senior year at Baylor University, majoring in Health Science Studies. After graduating in May of 2016 she plans to begin working toward obtaining her Master’s degree in Public Health. Kaylyn is also a high jumper for the Baylor Track and Field team and loves the challenge, teammates, discipline, and Christian atmosphere being a part of such an incredible team provides. Kaylyn can usually be found reading any book she can get her hands on or watching movies with friends, her stupendous little sister, Lauren, or her wonderful and supportive boyfriend, Marcus. Her main goal for her future career is to decrease the prevalence of obesity and resulting chronic disease in our nation and thus improve quality of life for millions of children and adults.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.