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Central Louisiana students attend 11th Annual Youth Summit on Healthy Behaviors
Kathy Gunn
/ Categories: Press Releases

Central Louisiana students attend 11th Annual Youth Summit on Healthy Behaviors

Students and teachers from 53 schools participated in The Rapides Foundation’s Youth Summit on Healthy Behaviors, an annual event where participants learn how to become advocates for healthy choices and policy change in their schools and communities.


This year’s summit was made up of six regional in-person events held in multiple parishes throughout Central Louisiana during the month of October. About 550 students and teachers from nine Central Louisiana parishes participated in the summit events held in Pineville, Natchitoches, Leesville and Oakdale.


New Orleans native, hip-hop artist and motivational speaker Dee-1 opened the events virtually, delivering a keynote that used his life experiences to talk about why he chose a path of healthy behaviors that includes avoiding alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Dee-1 was also the featured speaker at the 2021 Summit.

The team from JiggAerobics

The team from JiggAerobics


The Youth Summit on Healthy Behaviors is an event for teachers and students participating in the Foundation’s Healthy Behaviors School District Partnership Grant to learn about creating healthy changes at school.


“We recognize that schools are an important part of most young people’s lives and therefore provide a critical setting for many prevention and intervention efforts under our Healthy Behaviors Initiative,” said Joe Rosier, President and CEO of The Rapides Foundation. “The goal is to provide students, staff and teachers with the knowledge and skills necessary to make better and informed behavior decisions leading to healthier lives.”


The Summit included sessions on healthy eating and active living, substance and alcohol abuse prevention, and tobacco prevention and control. Within each session, students received important information on each topic and then had the opportunity to brainstorm ideas for advocating healthy behaviors in their schools and communities. This is the 11th year the Foundation has presented the Summit.


Staff from the Louisiana Public Health Institute and the Louisiana Campaign for Tobacco-Free Living provided information on tobacco and vaping as well as training on leadership and advocacy in an interactive presentation focused on Tobacco Prevention and Control. After the presentation, students spent time planning the Take Down Tobacco event that will be implemented at their school in spring 2023 as part of their grant activities.


The team from JiggAerobics led the Healthy Eating and Active Living session as well as exercise breaks. JiggAerobics is a global fitness brand that combines “jigging,” an energetic Louisiana dance style, with numerous plyometric exercises for a total body workout. Their hands-on, high-energy presentation included fun, lively music designed to increase healthy eating, active living and positive thinking, and action planning.


Retired DEA agent Thomas Walden Jr.

Retired DEA agent Thomas Walden Jr.

The Substance and Alcohol Abuse Prevention session was led by Thomas Walden Jr., a retired Special Agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. With over 30 years of local and federal law enforcement experience, his presentation provided Central Louisiana students with an understanding and awareness of the physical and social impact of the misuse and abuse of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and tobacco products, as well as the impact and consequences that result from daily choices – both positive and negative.


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