Iowa 4-H held a healthy living retreat in October, offering Iowa youth in grades 8-12 a chance to learn more about wellness and wellbeing. Twenty-three 4-H members from across the state attended the retreat Oct. 20-21 at Clover Woods Camp and Retreat Center.
Laura Liechty, Iowa 4-H healthy living program specialist, and Hannah Wilson, Wayne County youth coordinator, spearheaded the retreat along with seven 4-H members who serve as Iowa’s healthy living ambassadors. The idea for the retreat came when the group attended the 4-H National Healthy Living Summit in Washington, D.C., last February.
“One thing we noticed during our workshops was that most states had a day camp or retreat where youth could come and learn more about healthy living,” said Natalie Bretey, Boone County 4-H member and healthy living ambassador. “Iowa was one of the few states that didn’t have an opportunity like that. The summit helped us learn more about healthy living and we wanted to bring a summarized, more relaxed version of that back to Iowa.”
The retreat included workshops about mindfulness, financial wellbeing, relationships, nutrition, food access and gardening. Des Moines Area Religious Council facilitated a hunger simulation, helping the youth understand what it is like to live with food insecurity. Youth went on hikes, participated in mini health challenges, and explored the science of BBQ as they grilled their own burgers for dinner.
“When learning about healthy living, you’ll see that there’s a lot more to it than staying physically healthy. Our mental and financial health are also important. I really enjoyed watching youth at the retreat realize that living a healthy life really does make a difference,” Bretey said.
The planning committee’s goal for the retreat was to lay the foundation for youth to understand all aspects of healthy living and to become ambassadors for health in their own counties.
“The highlight of the healthy living retreat was hearing that youth wanted the retreat to be longer,” Wilson said. “It is also encouraging to hear that some youth are interested in becoming an Iowa Youth healthy living ambassador for their counties.”
There are more plans in the works for healthy living in 2019. Liechty is looking to engage more teens in leadership experiences to advocate for healthy living in their clubs, schools and communities. She hopes to formalize the ambassador process and identify up to 12 4-H youth who will lead health initiatives across the state.
Youth interested in becoming an Iowa 4-H healthy living ambassador can apply online. Visit the healthy living ambassador webpage for more information.