Empowering students for health and leadership: SALSA Program launches at Glen Innes High School

A peer-led program which motivates high school students to improve their physical activity, diet and overall wellbeing was launched by  HealthWISE at Glen Innes High School on Tuesday, June 20.

As part of the Students As LifeStyle Activists (SALSA) regional program, students from the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health trained 23 year nine and 10 students to deliver interactive lessons to year eight students.

“It has been so wonderful to travel out to Glen Innes and deliver the SALSA program alongside HealthWISE in the New England region for the first time,” said Dr Smita Shah, director of the Western Sydney Prevention Education and Research Unit (PERU).

“With the leadership of these fantastic students, we will make a difference,” she said.

The program was made possible with funding from the NSW government’s ‘Our Region, Our Voice’ Regional Youth Investment Program, which aims to empower youth in the New England North West region.

Students participated eagerly in activities such as a dinner plate relay, ultimate frisbee, lunchbox lotto and mapping out local spaces suitable for exercising. They pitched a school action plan focusing on ways to increase physical activity to principal Adam Forrester, who gave the tick of approval.

“From the level of student participation I witnessed today, it seems to me like they really enjoyed the program,” school support liaison Evelyn Harrington said. “This program will be a great confidence builder for the peer leaders.”

Year nine student Will Cupitt said he is looking forward to inspiring the younger students, and is considering ways he can improve his own health. Will Lyn agreed, and said he learned to keep the lessons short, simple and memorable.

“We were nervous about delivering SALSA for the first time, but you guys made it easy,” university student Robbie Baird told the group.

HealthWISE mental health clinician Anne Edwards spoke with the students about healthy habits to maintain good mental health. The day finished with the group practicing their peer leaderships skills in anticipation of delivering the workshop to the younger students.

“It was clear that everyone had fun, felt involved and learned a lot,” HealthWISE community engagement officer Samantha Fairless said. “Glen Innes High school were the first to sign up for the SALSA program in the New England North West and their enthusiasm to be a part of the program continues to be clearly evident. I really commend the teachers and principal for encouraging student participation and for being willing to ensure the success of the program in their school.”

SALSA workshops will also roll out at Narrabri High, Gunnedah High and Tamworth’s Oxley High. The program has already reached 23,000 students across the country, fostering leadership and team building skills, and improving their health literacy.

University students Robbie Baird and Guy Crawley.
Natasha Yeo and Prashanth Balachandran speak to the group.

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