The Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center’s Youth Council Walk for Health

The Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center’s Youth Council leads the way to change.
Photo by Patricio Robayo

The road toward change in the Bronx begins with a single step in Crotona.

On Saturday, October 18, the Youth Council of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center sponsored a Walk for Health in the Crotona section of the borough.

The teenagers involved at this center have focused their collective time, attention, and dedication on their community’s health. This resulted several years ago upon receiving statistics from the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in which more than half of Bronx children will have diabetes within their lifetime should early intervention not be taken.

During the second annual event, the youth council presented their platform in a performance skit on ‘the Healthy Bronx’ and ‘the Unhealthy Bronx’ to address this concern. From the center, located on 2007 Mapes Avenue, they lead families across the neighborhood. Saturday’s walk saw them traveling alongside Tremont Avenue, making their way through Crotona Park before returning from Southern Boulevard After the walk, the participants enjoyed a healthy meal consisting of brown rice, chicken, salad, and fruits.

According to Heidi Hynes, executive director of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center’s Youth Council, there were over 100 people in the yard watching the skit and 70 plus took part in Saturday’s walk.

“It’s a gauntlet,” explained Hynes. “Something’s got to give and we have to change this. I think we can create a healthy environment to help in making healthy choices. Change doesn’t happen over night and good change certainly doesn’t happen over night.”

The group has established a three-part plan of action to meet this goal.

First, the youth council is working alongside Councilman Ritchie Torres to create a ‘Healthy Tremont’ initiative.

This seeks to provide healthy food options on Tremont between Southern Boulevard and Webster Avenue one of which is through the Green Dot System.

This system is used on restaurant menus to indicate healthy meals to patrons via a green dot next to certain foods.

Next, they strive to improve the present conditions facing two neighborhood parks; Crotona Park and the Astin Jacobo Baseball Field. By renovating these parks, the youth council desires to create more local places for people to play and exercise.

The program wishes to have security cameras installed in Crotona Park to help make it safer for people to use.

Finally, they aimed to promote an active lifestyle through their Saturday Health Walk and better inform residents on the health issues plaguing the borough.

The youths involved in the program believed the walk was successful in many ways.

“It was a lot better than we planned,” said Arnold, 20. “We were expecting at least 100 people there, but we exceeded that amount. We did raise awareness and I think we got the job done.”

Tammy, 12, was excited to have been involved in the walk, expressing that “this was my first walk even though it’s actually the second annual walk.”

“I think it went really great,” said Athena, 20. “There were people who stopped us during the march just so they could read our signs and understand why we were marching.”

“It was great to be involved and to help promote awareness on these problems,” said Valentina, 13.

Ultimately, the Youth Council’s Walk for Health has created a starting path toward change in Bronx residents’ lives and health.

“There’s always more work to be done, but people got the message,” said Hynes. “We raised awareness through the walk and now the work continues.”

The Youth Council in Crotona Park, one of two neighborhood parks where they seek to improve active lifestyle changes among young people.
Photo by Patricio Robayo

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