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Students learn ‘Best’ choices

Kaiser educational program inspires healthy lifestyle decisions
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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By the end of the assembly at Sierra Gardens Elementary School in Roseville, the young students likely had one rhyming phrase stuck in their heads: “The best me I can be.”

That mantra was repeated often by the actors in “The Best Me” show, performed on campus May 23. The show is part of Kaiser Permanente’s educational theater program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The theater program strives to inspire children, teens and adults to make informed decisions about health and building healthier communities.

One show, “Nightmare on Puberty Street,” teaches middle schoolers about dealing with the pressures of adolescence. “Secrets” addresses HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. “Peace Signs” talks about resolving conflict without violence.

“The Best Me” program teaches kids about making healthy and active lifestyle choices. After the assembly, the performers hosted supplemental educational workshops in each classroom.

“Kaiser sort of adopted us and they’ve been doing all sorts of things here to promote healthier lifestyles and a safe environment,” said Sierra Gardens Principal Vickie Youhill. “They’ve been awesome. I love to look at the students’ faces and see how involved they are.”

Students in first-to-sixth grade attended the interactive assembly, and watched as four characters struggle to make positive choices, while entertained with songs, dance and humor.

One character named Kayla, played by Antonette Bracks, is upset that her overprotective dad doesn’t want her hanging around outside unsupervised, so she is stuck inside watching television after school.

Queen Activity, played by Natalie Amaya, comes to Kayla in a dream sequence with advice: “You’re stuck in this house with nothing to do, and Kayla you need to move.” Kayla realizes she can dance and move around inside for an hour every day.

Max, played by 2005 Oakmont High School graduate Kyle Vermeulen, is obsessed with video games. He learns to limit his screen time to two hours a day.

Athlete Tino, played by David Zubiria, tries out for his school’s soccer team — after snacking on potato chips and drinking soda. The soft drink’s sugar causes him to crash just in time for tryouts, so he performs poorly and the coach cuts him from the team. Tino learns to drink more water, and avoid soda and fruit drinks, which are also full of sugar.

Dani, played by Amaya, eats processed and fatty food for lunch, and learns that she needs a balanced diet of whole grains, and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

“And if you can’t pronounce the ingredients then you shouldn’t eat it,” she said.

Program Coordinator Katrina Lashea said “The Best Me” program gives kids information about healthy choices they should be making now.

“We’re trying to prevent diabetes (and obesity) in younger people by giving them core messages,” Lashea said.

But parents also need these messages, because they’re often the ones buying their children the soft drinks, potato chips and junk food. Kaiser Permanente hosted an evening assembly with parents in the audience, and served a free healthy dinner to everyone.

“It means a lot to me to share these healthy messages,” Vermeulen said. “They see options about preventing health problems down the road. There is a message in this show for every student. If they take one piece of information home, I consider that a success.”

Sena Christian can be reached at senac@goldcountrymedia.com.