This post is the first in a series spotlighting teen advocates, youth leaders who speak up about school wellness and envrironmental issues that affect them most. Thanks to HSC intern Christine Andersen, who is beginning her senior year of high school, for this post!
Francisco Figuero is a high school student with a passion for fitness -- and several years ago, he decided to share that energy with his school. Francisco began inviting friends and classmates to exercise together, with the goal of helping more people experience the benefits of physical activity. Over time, his workout groups became a hit with students throughout the school, including many who had never been interested in exercise. Building on this energy, Francisco talked to school leaders about boosting the school's wellness environment. Through his involvement with Mikva Challenge, Francisco went on to create a Youth Wellness Team that helps create a healthy environment at his school. Kudos to Francisco for his work to promote wellness!
What methods are you using to raise awareness and rally support for health and wellness?
When I tried to rally support from the principal, I told him that our school had a high obesity rate and that it would help the school’s reputation if health became a priority. The most success, however, came from working directly with the students. I started exercising with a few groups of kids, and many other students saw what I was doing and liked the idea. So, more and more groups of kids joined in.
How did people react when you began advocating for wellness?
The idea did seem crazy at first to some, which is why I went after certain groups of kids to start a trend. These kids were able to influence the rest of the student body and show them that living a healthy lifestyle was not a weird thing to do. Over time, these values spread throughout different groups of friends.
What adults have inspired you along the way? What teens have inspired you along the way?
My parents and stepparents all came from military backgrounds, so an exercise-intensive lifestyle was natural for me. They inspired me to continue to promote this lifestyle. Later on, the rest of my football team helped me by teaching me more about healthy eating, which was never as big of a focus for me as exercise. Mikva helped me a lot by giving me feasible ideas such as starting a Youth Wellness Team at my school.
What challenges did you face? How did you overcome these challenges?
The greatest challenge was finding peers to help. I started with a few kids, mainly my friends, and we started exercising together. It was important to stay connected with other groups of people to spread our message. Over time, other groups of friends began joining together.
What do you hope to do in this area in the future? What is your next step?
In college, I will study psychology and sociology. I hope to continue to help myself lead a healthy lifestyle. I also hope to continue to advocate for health and wellness at my college.
Stay posted for more teen advocate spotlights in this series.