EDUCATION CONNECTION—Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi

By on March 7, 2018
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By Meghan Burk


First Lady Deborah Bryant (center) surrounded by Healthy Teen Council members who attended the September 7 rally in Jackson.

Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi


Families First for Mississippi is expanding Governor Bryant’s Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi initiative throughout the state to include educational and innovative programs on healthy choices to engage teens, which impact many of the leading challenges within our state.


The vision of the partnership between Families First and Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi is to promote healthy choices across a variety of areas that impact the health and future success of youth by providing parents with education and training, motivating teens to set goals and teach teens to choose responsible choices in their everyday lives.


Allie Whittaker, Healthy Teens Council member, organized a Military Appreciation Campaign at her school, Eupora High. She is shown pinning teacher Melinda Allen in honor of her husband leaving for duty that same day.

Advances in technology mean today’s teens are facing issues that no previous generation has ever seen. While some issues are not exactly new, electronic media has changed or amplified some of the struggles young people face. The average teen spends over nine hours each day using their electronic devices. Their social media habits and media consumption are changing the way young people communicate, learn, sleep, and exercise.


“We want to equip our youth with the tools they need to make positive choices so they can live long, healthy lives,” said First Lady Deborah Bryant. “We need more advocates, like Families First for Mississippi, supporting our initiative to help teens stay in school and lead successful careers. This partnership is key to building a better future for the next generation of state leaders.


The statement, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is very true. It takes an entire community of different people interacting with children in order for them to experience and grow in a safe environment.


Our teenagers face immense pressure, from puberty changes to fitting in with their peers. Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi created a peer-led Healthy Teen council. The council is comprised of 42 high school students across the State of Mississippi. The council members advocate and educate their peers to make healthy decisions in their schools and communities. The Governor’s Healthy Teens Council works to build their own local councils that conduct awareness campaigns on issues that are important to their schools, students, and communities.


Healthy Teens council member, Allie Whittaker, a student at Eupora High School, conducted a Military Appreciation campaign, which gave an American flag pin to every student so they could show their support for our troops.


Amy Parker, a student at Saltillo High School, hosted an anti-bullying campaign and handed out Blow Pops that said, “Don’t blow your future on drugs.”


“Healthy Teens for a Better MS and the Governor’s Healthy Teens Council is working hard in schools and communities to engage their peers in conversation and actions against risky behavior. These teens are campaigning for healthy choices that will help the youth of this state make good decisions,” said Liz Ketchum, State Director for Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi.


For the past year, Healthy Teens has been hosting Healthy Teens Rallies across the state. Local area high schools are invited to attend. The rallies are filled full of excitement, entertainment, and education that bring awareness to the choices that affect the future of teens in our state. The rallies have included well-known guest speakers such as Marcus Dupree, former NFL football athlete, and Ted DiBiase Jr., former professional wrestler featured as guest speakers. Inviting well-known individuals that the students can relate to help hear their personal story and gives them courage that they can be anything they want when they grow up. With the support of the community, these rallies give students the resources needed to help them make healthier choices.


Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi has a bright future ahead. Although each rally has been successful with an average of over 1,000 students in attendance, not every school has been able to participate. Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi looks forward to implementing “Healthy Teens on the Road,” which will allow the rallies to be brought to local area high schools.


For more information regarding Healthy Teens for a Better Mississippi or if a school would like to get a Healthy Teens Council started, please contact Liz Ketchum via email at


Mississippi Community Education Center and Family Resource Center of North Mississippi have provided Families First for Mississippi services jointly for over 20 years. The program seeks to strengthen families of all backgrounds and life circumstances by providing youth development, literacy, financial stability, workforce & job readiness, increase graduation rates, fatherhood and parent education through seminars, workshops, classes, and presentations. The program is in locations such as schools, community centers, churches, and state agency offices. Families First has created a tremendous positive impact across the State.




Meghan Burk is the Media Coordinator for the Mississippi Community Education Center.