School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan, Lansing, Michigan

Background

Demographic Snapshot

Lansing, MI

Capital of Michigan

Home to Michigan State University, General Motors, Magic Johnson, and Malcolm X

Total population: 114,297

61.2% White/Caucasian
23.7% Black/African American
3.7% Asian American
0.8% American Indian
12.5% Hispanic/Latino of any race

Median household income: $35,774

The School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan (SCHA-MI) represents and supports school-based and school-linked health centers with a 60 percent presence in urban areas. The school-based and school-linked health centers serve at-risk youth residing in medically underserved areas, including rural Michigan. While the program for school-based health has been in the state for 25 years, SCHA-MI, Lansing, has been in operation for 9 years.

Before submitting a grant application, Robin Turner, consultant to the SCHA-MI and MSY Program coordinator, secured commitments from three local communities (affiliated with two health departments and one hospital) to participate. “By intent and design,” the three communities represent rural, suburban, and urban areas. Once funded, the three communities were ready to begin recruiting youth participants. Ms. Turner knew that “passive recruitment,” such as a letter mailing, would not be effective, and she suggested that each of the three communities identify a “trusted person to make the ‘ask’ from within.” This is exactly what happened at one of the communities. Using a robocall system, the school principal personally left a message promoting the MSY Program to every student’s parent/guardian. Only five kids had been recruited before this strategy; 16 kids signed up immediately after the robocall message.

Mission

The School-Community Health Alliance of Michigan's mission is to improve the health and educational outcomes of children and youth by advancing and advocating for school-based and school-linked health care.

Denise Cykiert, registered dietitian and nutrition educator at Botsford Hospital, facilitated the MSY Program with 15 sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders at Pierce Middle School in Redford Charter Township (a low-income area west of Detroit). The majority of this school’s student population has been classified as overweight. The student body comprises a mix of races and ethnicities, with a high proportion of African American students. Ms. Cykiert delivered the MSY Program in the patient waiting area of the school-based health center that partners with Botsford Hospital. She and the participants prepared and consumed snacks in Ms. Cykiert’s mini-conference room office.

This was Ms. Cykiert’s second time implementing the MSY Program. Through the requirements of a state of Michigan grant, she had to identify an evidence-based program and found the MSY Program while researching appropriate programs on the Internet. She facilitated the MSY Program for the first time in 2011 and “really enjoyed the content.” Given this previous experience, Ms. Cykiert felt better prepared to facilitate it again a second time, now in 2013. “The Media-Smart Youth Program is put together really well,” she stated.

Program Implementation

SCHA-MI staff implemented MSY lessons at: (1) Pierce Middle School-Based Health Center (South Redford), (2) Durand Middle School (Durand), and (3) Sawyer Salvation Army Rec Center at the Marquette County Health Department (Upper Peninsula of Michigan).

Pierce Middle School

The Pierce Middle School site met each Tuesday, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., February 26, 2013, through May 14, 2013, at the school-based health center (affiliated with Botsford Hospital). Depending on availability, youth used the health center waiting room or the school’s hallways. Youth spent approximately 3 weeks working on the trifold Big Production poster board (coupled with working at home and during lunch for final touches of the display to be showcased at Project Voice, a statewide youth conference held in Flint, Michigan). The display contained images of celebrities, health foods, and youth participating in physical activities. The display board was surrounded by flashing lights.

Durand Middle School

The Durand Middle School site met once a week for 10 weeks for 1½ hours from February through May 2013. For the Big Production, youth videotaped a portion of each lesson and spent 3 hours editing the video for a final 3-minute production for use at Project Voice. To create the video, youth used a computer and camcorder.

Marquette

The Marquette site, complete with kitchen facilities and a gym, ran the program Monday through Friday, 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., June 17, 2013, through June 28, 2013, after serving lunch. Students created a poster with the message “Eating Healthy – Be Active!” and included photos of healthy fruit and vegetable and physical activity choices. It will hang in the dining room where the Free Summer Lunch program is served.

MSY Program facilitators reported that the program is flexible enough “that no one felt left out or lost because they missed a day.”

Staff sent information about the progress of the MSY Program at this site via the monthly SCHA-MI listserv’s Clinicians’ Digest and Mental Health Digest.
MSY participants shared their three sites’ Big Productions at the SCHA-MI Project Voice conference in spring 2013. The Marquette site also presented their creations to the local Health Council. Staff will post photos of each site’s Big Production on social media sites and SCHA-MI’s website as a featured video of the day.

Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

“On this poster, youth had incorporated something from each Media-Smart Youth lesson.”

Denise Cykiert, Facilitator

Ms. Cykiert’s most gratifying moment was witnessing the participants developing and completing the Big Production—a very large trifold poster board with content about physical activity. On this poster, youth had incorporated something from each MSY lesson. As one example, participants created a comic strip featuring an overweight middle schooler who lost weight as he followed daily physical activity recommendations. “I could see that the students had really been paying attention!” said Ms. Cykiert.

Participants also loved the physical activity aspects of the program and “wanted to run around all the time.” One youth remarked, “I love MSY! It’s so cool, especially the trip to Flint. It was educational.”

Ms. Turner heard MSY participants say, “I don’t want it to be over,” and “What do you mean it’s over?” indicating that youth had a fun time with the MSY Program. She would like to offer the MSY Program again to a set of different communities. However, she explained, “The hardest part is the recruitment.” She scheduled monthly calls with her three community partners as an opportunity to check in. Looking back, she wishes she had engaged in shorter (15-minute) and more frequent (weekly instead of monthly) calls to troubleshoot youth recruitment and retention strategies.

Out of the three communities, Marquette experienced the greatest challenges implementing the program as a result of inclement weather. For four Mondays in a row, schools closed because of snow. Schools also closed 3 days in a row due to ice. To intensify matters, high-level school personnel turnover delayed MSY Program planning and implementation efforts at this school. As a result, this site held the MSY Program as an after-school activity during the first week in June 2013—shortly before school ended for the year.

Ms. Cykiert’s greatest challenges included making sure she had sufficient time so as not to rush or skip over material and managing students’ behavior. She elaborated, “I would love to teach the MSY Program again, but it is a lot of work. I spent at least 3 hours of preparation time for each lesson—this includes shopping for food and preparing the snacks to making copies and posters each week.” Furthermore, because the MSY Program is structured in 15- or 10-minute activity segments where participants are asked to switch from one activity to the next, Ms. Cykiert observed, “In reality, that’s not how middle schoolers work. They’re not running like soldiers.” She underscored, “The Media-Smart Youth Program is perfect under best behavior circumstances.”

Ms. Cykiert also did not have luck when reaching out to potential partners. She had reached out to local schools for assistance with media needs, including borrowing equipment, and offered students at other schools opportunities to practice leadership skills by mentoring MSY Program participants, but she received no feedback on these outreach attempts. For example, Ms. Cykiert did not have a laptop to play the MSY curriculum’s CD.

Recommendations for Future Implementations of the Program

Because of student attention problems during MSY lessons, Ms. Cykiert thinks the MSY Program is optimally designed for older youth, such as seventh- and eighth-graders instead of sixth-graders. Although she found the number of lessons (10) to be appropriate, Ms. Cykiert recommends shortening each lesson from 90 minutes to 60 minutes to sustain youth’s attention (particularly in an after-school setting). She also suggested offering the program during a regular school day or summer camp, when students are prepared to pay attention more.

Looking Ahead

This grantee’s project coordinator, Ms. Turner, described the MSY curriculum at a mental health training in Detroit, attended by eight social workers and dietitians. There, Ms. Turner loaned an extra copy of the MSY curriculum for use by a site at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Durand Middle School will use the MSY Program again in academic year 2013–2014.

Ms. Turner reported that the KI Sawyer coalition, composed of community leaders, clergy, health professionals, school staff, parents, and local organizations from the Gwinn community, has built partnerships among the health department, recreation center, and coalition and is committed to making KI Sawyer a healthier community (one of the most at-risk communities in the Upper Peninsula and Marquette area).

SCHA-MI will continue to offer the MSY curriculum in its resource library, free of charge. It will also continue to publish articles on MSY in its digests and offer information about MSY through its mental health network of providers in Michigan. SCHA-MI is presenting a poster on MSY at the Michigan Department of Community Health, Child and Adolescent Health Center Program, Annual Conference, October 13-14, 2013.

Last but not least, through the experience implementing the MSY Program, SCHA-MI’s youth developed relationships with health center staff. The intention is for youth to educate peers about MSY messages through word of mouth.