Building confidence and leadership skills with SALSA at Narrabri High

A peer-led program which motivates high school students to improve their physical activity, diet and overall wellbeing reached Narrabri High School on Monday, June 26, hosted by HealthWISE.

As part of the Students As LifeStyle Activists (SALSA) regional program, students from the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health trained 22 year 10 students to deliver interactive lessons to year eight students.

“The Narrabri students were engaged, animated and kept the university students on their toes,” HealthWISE health and wellbeing officer Emma Knights said.

“It was really enlightening to see the transformative process each student went through throughout the day. Their confidence, leadership ability and teamwork really grew,” she said.

The program is proudly funded by the NSW Government’s Regional Youth Investment Program, which aims to empower youth in the New England North West region.

“The university students did a fantastic job in co-facilitating the workshop,” said Kym Rizzo Liu, project manager of the Western Sydney Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU). She believes SALSA is an example of the importance of combining health and education.

“The year 10 students who trained as SALSA peer leaders rose to the occasion and displayed excellent leadership skills,” she said.

Students participated eagerly in outdoor activities such as ultimate frisbee and lunchbox bingo. The dinner plate relay was particularly competitive as students raced to fill their plates with cards representing protein, grains, vegetables and herbs. They prepared a school action plan focusing on making good use of the school’s generous oval.

“We’ve done educational stuff that’s actually been really fun,” year 10 student Jacky Ham said.

“It’s educational and practical,” classmate Dakoda Bower added.

Looking forward to sharing their knowledge, the pair agreed that the younger students will be more likely to respond to health education from their peers than adults. They felt that it is important to start thinking about their health while they are still young.

“So (that) when you get older – especially when you go into uni and jobs – you can learn how to take care of yourself and have a routine,” Jacky said.

The day finished with the group practicing their peer leaderships skills and discussing what they’d gained from the workshop. The students enjoyed the outdoor games and working with new people. They gained a new perspective on health, with the importance of sleep hygiene sinking in for many.

A SALSA workshop was also held at Glen Innes High and another will run in Tamworth with Gunnedah High and Oxley High this week. The program has already reached 23,000 students across the country, fostering leadership and team building skills, and improving their health literacy.

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