Those involved with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation got together recently to celebrate at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.

Those involved with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation got together recently to celebrate at Ventura Youth Correctional Facility.

Division of Juvenile Justice, health group partner to educate young offenders

By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer

A recent celebration highlighted health in youth facilities.

One year ago, the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) joined forces with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to work on overall wellness.

Those behind the effort got together recently at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility (NACYCF)  in Stockton and Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Camarillo to recognize the people who have made the success possible.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, is spreading the message of healthier living to schools and youth correctional facilities throughout the country.

“There is nothing more important than eating and living right, and taking care of your body. We’re making history here, we’re learning from the Alliance and they’re learning from us,” said Mike Minor, Director for the Division of Juvenile Justice.

What are juvenile facilities doing concerning overall wellness?

Ventura YCF Co-chair Ray Galaviz said, “We’re working on the menu, wanting to introduce healthier food (and) looking at the vending machines, seeing how we can offer healthier choices,” said e’re even doing Insanity workouts in our living units on Saturdays.”

Galaviz, who is a Program Administrator at Ventura,  said there are six to 10 people on the project committee, and no youth offenders at this time.

“We’ve held wellness boot camps, are looking into healthier canteen items, as well as a healthy quote of the week,” said N.A. Chaderjian YCF Superintendent Erin Brock. “We’ve sent out surveys on healthier habits, cut back on unhealthy food, and are discussing food choices in vending machines throughout the facility.”

Brock said there are eight to 10 people on the project committee.

Seeing benefits

Jordan, a youth offender at NACYCF, attended the celebration and is hoping to be one of the youth added to the committee this year.

“I’ve learned through the Alliance to stay healthy, because I’ll live longer. I used to be big, but now I like to work out, and now I never eat after 6 p.m. cause I don’t like feeling so full,” he said.

He said he also looks forward to playing basketball or lifting weights or doing other physical activities for at least an hour every day.

Why is this effort important?

All four youth correctional facilities take part in the program: N.A. Chaderjian, O.H. Close, Ventura and the Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp.

According to the Alliance, one in three children and adolescents, ages 2-19, are overweight or obese, triple the rate from just one generation ago, and those rates are even higher among the Latino and African American communities.

Add to that, many of the youth offenders come from neighborhoods with fewer parks, fewer open spaces and are considered unsafe.

“For all those reasons, we try to give these youth offenders healthy food and exercise options. Many have never thought about what they’re eating or how that may be affecting their health,” said Lori Golden, Juvenile Justice Program Manager for the Alliance. “These are lifestyle choices that can affect them for the rest of their lives.”

The two-hour event at each facility featured panel discussions, certificates of recognition, and a video presentation which included inspirational words from Chelsea Clinton of the William J. Clinton Foundation.

From left, Mike Minor, Director of the Division of Juvenile Justice, Mike Roots, Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp Superintendent, Howard Wechsler,  CEO of Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and Tony Lucero, Deputy Director Division of Juvenile Justice attended a celebration at Stockton Training Facility.

From left, Mike Minor, Director of the Division of Juvenile Justice, Mike Roots, Pine Grove Youth Conservation Camp Superintendent, Howard Wechsler, CEO of Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and Tony Lucero, Deputy Director Division of Juvenile Justice attended a celebration at Stockton Training Facility.