Pinellas Park, FL
City founded by Philadelphia publisher F.A. Davis
Home to Tampa Bay Automobile Museum and Tampa Bay History Center
Total population: 49,079
2.09% Black/African American
4.25% Asian American
0.39% American Indian
6.26% Hispanic/Latino of any race
Median household income: $35,048
Coordinated Child Care of Pinellas, Inc. (CCC) implemented the MSY Program at eight 21st Century Community Learning Centers (seven of which are on school properties and one at a community recreational center located across from a middle school). 21st Century Community Learning Centers, funded by the Florida Department of Education, provide academic enrichment opportunities during nonschool hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools, usually Title I schools. (Title I schools are those with high numbers of children from low-income families that receive federal funds to help ensure that all children meet state academic standards.) Because CCC had already written MSY into the 21st Century curriculum for this fiscal year, youth were already enrolled in the program; therefore, no specific recruitment for MSY was necessary. In all, 161 youth completed the entire MSY Program.
CCC involved numerous partners in the implementation of the program, including the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County, YMCA of the Suncoast, YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg, R’Club Child Care, City of St. Petersburg, and Walter Fuller Recreation Center. CCC contracted with these partners to implement the MSY Program in school cafeterias, on basketball courts, outdoors, or in open space. Certified teachers facilitated the program by breaking the large group of youth enrolled at each learning center into small groups of 10 to 12 participants each.
Coordinated Child Care of Pinellas, Inc., facilitates the availability of affordable, accessible, high-quality early education and care and related school-age programs by acting as a primary resource in Pinellas County for children, families, providers, and employers.
Rebecca Albert, research analyst at the Juvenile Welfare Board and consultant for the CCC MSY Program, noticed a trend. Initially, during the first few monthly meetings with site directors, concern was raised related to the MSY Program creating additional work for the learning center staff (especially given existing workloads). However, once site directors realized that youth were eager to participate and the MSY curriculum was straightforward to implement, their initial resistance vanished.
CCC implemented the MSY Program at: (1) Walter Fuller Recreation Center (a community-based center in St. Petersburg), (2) Bay Point Middle School (St. Petersburg), (3) Dunedin Highland Middle School (Dunedin), (4) Largo Middle School (Largo), (5) Morgan-Fitzgerald Middle School (Largo), (6) Oak Grove Middle School (Clearwater), (7) Tarpon Springs Middle School (Tarpon Springs), and (8) Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School (St. Petersburg). At each site, at least 15 youth, ages 11 to 13 years, attended the entire MSY Program.
“Kids have been really excited to be part of the MSY Program like we’ve never seen before.”
Rebecca Albert, Coordinator
CCC trained eight certified teachers and eight site directors to use the MSY Program curriculum.
At all eight sites, CCC implemented the MSY Program to enhance current youth activities during the 21st Century academic enrichment segment through ten 1-hour lessons, Monday through Thursday. During the MSY Program, youth participants retrieved food commercials from the Internet and analyzed their messages; identified whole-grain foods; sampled foods; tried different forms of physical activity and competitions; calculated their heart rates; created healthy grocery shopping lists and menus; measured serving portions; prepared food; reviewed magazine, radio, and newspaper ads; and dined with family members.
Youth ideas executed during the Big Production, across the eight sites, included a video to promote an active lifestyle among teens; a painted banner; a fitness video and a skit about healthy eating; a short video and PowerPoint presentation on MSY; a video of students engaged in visual, dramatic, and musical presentations; posters; a video of a song written by students; and a commercial advertising healthy choices. CCC will disseminate the Big Production creations via CCC’s website, Facebook page, and Twitter. In addition, CCC will post the full-size banner created by the students in the front lobby and submit a press release on the CCC’s MSY Program.
Facilitators expressed the need for more time to implement the 10 MSY lesson plans, as well as a desire to begin the program earlier in the school year.
Youth and Community Response to the Media-Smart Youth Program
The youth enjoyed the Action Breaks, Snack Breaks, and Mini-Productions.
The nutrition component of the MSY Program stood out most for the youth. Participants tried new snacks that they typically would not buy at the store or have at home. They were surprised how tasty a healthy snack can be, such as trail mix, dried apples, and yogurt.
Youth seemed to least enjoy the lessons about grains and reading food labels.
Feedback from facilitators indicated that “kids have been really excited to be part of the MSY Program like we’ve never seen before.” Ms. Albert shared that kids in the MSY Program have shown more enthusiasm than they have for other related programs. She attributes the unique excitement around the MSY Program to the positive staff attitude that no extra work would be required, MSY activities being packaged as “project-based learning” or “disguised learning” (youth learn while having fun), and a different outlet for youth—particularly because 21st Century grantees are firmly focused on academics.
Even though parents/guardians had provided consent for their children to attend general programming, CCC required an additional MSY consent form. This added another layer in the process as parents sometimes became confused and sought additional clarification. Moreover, such communication needed to be clear for Spanish- and Creole-speaking families. Yet, the overall consensus was that “parents seemed to like that their child/children enjoyed the healthy food.” One site reported that “parents allowed their child/children to stay later than normal, so that the student could participate in the MSY lessons.”
Recommendations for Future Implementations of the Program
Ms. Albert explained that CCC would have opened the program to more youth “had they had more time.” She plans on offering the MSY Program again next school year and hopes more youth, sites, and schools will take part. Still, she noted that the MSY Program has competitors and recommended providing grantees—or providing funding for grantees—to develop large posters and other signage to hang in cafeterias and other places in schools to visibly and attractively promote the MSY Program, so that this program can stand out even more.
Ms. Albert offered the following advice to future MSY facilitators: “It is important to have community partners, and this includes business partners like your local grocery stores—so, not just government agencies and schools, but businesses as well. Health and nutrition are so important that I think MSY can be integrated into existing schoolwide educational components like language arts and math.”
CCC plans to sustain the MSY Program by continuing to require that it be part of the 21st Century lesson requirements. CCC will implement the MSY Program again during the first quarter of the 2013–2014 academic year. CCC will include parental consent forms in the 21st Century enrollment packet and collect them at the time of program registration.