Rounding the corner in the refrigerator aisle at Giant Foods, Marty, the 6-foot-tall robot, was approaching. I was searching for yogurt, quickly navigating around him, when I heard a scream from behind me. Turning around to see if someone needed help, an older woman yelled, “Lord, have mercy” as she abandoned her cart and ran the other way. (Marty needs to learn some manners.) Reassuring her, we both giggled over the crazy contraption that alerts management when a cleanup is needed in the store.

Messes are commonplace while raising teens, but most are not as easy as wiping up spilled milk. Poor academic performance is one example. Official alerts will come, but rather than a ‘Marty’ parents just need encouragement. Surprisingly, it’s not all about innate intelligence.

The 2015 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey lists several common denominators associated with lower grades – all of which are completely amendable. Compared to students who regularly make Ds and Fs, students who make As are:

· Less likely to be currently sexually active

· Less likely to drink alcohol before the age of 13

· Less likely to have ever used marijuana

· Less likely to be involved in a physical fight

· Less likely to currently use electronic vapor products

· More likely to engage in physical activity for at least 60 minutes per day on at least 5 days

Comparably, students with higher grades also approach sexual relationships with more caution. They are more likely to use condoms, and less likely to have used alcohol and/or drugs before sexual intercourse. Students can make healthier choices that propel them toward success. Education, positive peer groups and parent involvement are all key to this effort.

The WORTH program is collaborating with schools, appealing to youth to avoid risky behaviors through dynamic lesson plans. We address relevant topics like red flag relationships, bullying, boundaries and refusal skills that engage students with inclusive discussion. Hearing from peers, students begin to realize they are not alone in their struggles and identify with those who share a desire for optimal health. As one seventh grader commented, “I learned new things that help me to know how to make good decisions in life.”

We believe parents have the greatest opportunity to make the most positive impact on a teen. That’s why WORTH is designed to encourage conversations through engaging home assignments. “I learned valuable things from the program. The interactive lessons allowed me to understand the topics more. The program also gave me the chance to talk to my parents.”

Be encouraged, Mom and Dad.

Cindy Janczyk, BSN, is a health educator for WORTH, a free program offered to area schools;

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