Oxley Gunnedah SALSA workshop

Gunnedah and Oxley High students become lifestyle activists in SALSA workshop

Gunnedah and Oxley High students stepped up to become health leaders at a Students As LifeStyle Activists (SALSA) workshop on Thursday, June 29.

The third of its kind hosted by HealthWISE in the New England North West region, students from the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health trained 38 year 10 students to deliver interactive lessons to year eight students.

“Kids are usually in the passenger seat when it comes to health advice. They’re used to hearing health advice from parents, teachers and other sources,” HealthWISE business innovation manager Sally Urquhart said.

“SALSA has momentum of its own because it’s peer-led. The program takes the teenager out of the passenger seat and into the driver’s seat because they’re the ones sharing the message with their peers.”

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.

“Personally I didn’t get a lot of nutritional advice going through school, and that little bit of knowledge we’re giving them now I really would’ve appreciated myself,” fourth-year university student Robert Baird told the Northern Daily Leader.

Students kept each other laughing with charades and tested their health knowledge in a SALSA quiz show. They raced to fill their plates with cards representing protein, grains, vegetables and herbs in a dinner plate relay, and mapped out local spaces suitable for exercising.

They prepared an action plan to improve health and wellbeing in their schools.

“We feel very submersed in this program, and we’re learning to be better sports and lifestyle mentors,” Oxley student Ahmed Abdelmaaboud said.

“(We’re) looking to take away some of the information to hopefully learn how to better our lifestyles and be healthier,” classmate Dominic Barbara said.

Mili Woods said she enjoyed the team building exercises and meeting the Gunnedah High students. She hopes sharing the knowledge with the year eight students will allow them to build stronger bonds.

Katie Sheppard agreed, and said she was looking forward to teaching the younger students how to make good health decisions and “build a better lifestyle”.

As well as empowering young people to become peer leaders and make healthy choices, the SALSA program encourages the teenagers to think about possible career paths and further studies through their interactions with university students.

The day finished with the group practicing their peer leaderships skills in anticipation of delivering the program to the year eight students.

HealthWISE also hosted SALSA workshops at Glen Innes and Narrabri high schools, reaching a further 37 students. The SALSA program has impacted more than 23,000 students across the country, and rolled out in 40 NSW schools.

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