Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education, Raleigh, North Carolina


Demographic Snapshot

Raleigh, NC

Capital of and second largest city in North Carolina

Known as the "City of Oaks" for its many oak trees

Total population: 416,468

57.5% White/Caucasian
29.3% Black/African American
4.3% Asian American
0.5% American Indian
11.3% Hispanic/Latino of any race

Median household income: $46,612

The Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education (the Poe Center) is a nonprofit agency that delivers health education across the entire state of North Carolina. Given the vast geographic area covered, the populations served are varied. That said, the Poe Center has been serving mainly youth and children for the past 20 years and is beginning to offer family-oriented programming.

Although the Poe Center specifically serves 76 of the 100 counties in North Carolina, it implemented the Media-Smart Youth (MSY) Program in three Wake County settings: (1) the Ligon Middle School in Raleigh, held during an after-school program; (2) the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy (an all-girls charter middle school in its first year of operation) in Raleigh, held during the regular school day; and (3) the Zebulon Boys & Girls Club, held during an after-school program.

Given that one of the programs took place during the school day and that the Poe Center has established contacts at these partners’ after-school sites, recruiting youth for the MSY Program was not difficult. Youth were already in after-school programs, so they signed up for the free MSY Program as their after-school activity. That said, the Poe Center did engage in some promotion of the MSY Program. This included promoting and publicizing each program through their mascot’s (Seymour Poe) Facebook page, the Poe Center Web page, and press releases. The Poe Center designed a promotional flyer, individualizing it for each site. In addition, the Center created a Media-Smart Youth Raleigh Facebook page for the promotion and publication of all MSY productions for which permission forms had been obtained. They also posted student blogs and some of the Big Productions.


The mission of the Alice Aycock Poe Center for Health Education is to educate and empower North Carolina children, youth, and their families to make choices that increase positive health behaviors so that all North Carolina children and youth become healthy adults.

The three partners committed time for the Poe Center to conduct ten 2-hour MSY sessions at their sites as well as to have an adult from the partner entity be present during the sessions. The MSY Program coordinator conducted a training session for the Poe staff members and facilitators. All sessions were held in classrooms equipped with smart boards for viewing DVDs, and physical activities occurred mostly outdoors and sometimes in the hallway.

Program Implementation

Ligon Middle School

The Ligon Middle School site delivered MSY lessons once a week, after-school, from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The programming ran January 28, 2013, through April 8, 2013. To complete and film this site’s Big Production, the facilitator at this site conducted an additional session on April 15, 2013, from 2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The facilitator delivered all MSY activities on the middle school campus, both in a classroom and outdoors in the courtyard.

Ligon Middle School MSY participants created television commercials as their Big Production. Youth filmed and edited their commercials in the school’s production room that included a fully equipped media production room with a blue screen, editing and filming equipment, and helpful experts on staff. Youth showed their completed productions during the school’s morning news broadcast. Ligon Middle School staff gave each MSY student, as well as all MSY administrative staff involved, a DVD containing the Big Production as well as additional footage recorded during the 10 MSY sessions.

The Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy

The Media-Smart Youth program at Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy The MSY Program at Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy (WYWLA) included 32 young girls who participated in 11 sessions during the school’s fourth period from 12:50 p.m. to 2:10 p.m. Since there were 32 participants, the WYWLA broke them into seven groups of three to five girls per group to promote more critical thinking and deeper student involvement.

The WYWLA used two iPad devices from the Poe Center to film their Big Production. Initially, youth at this site were going to develop radio ads for their Big Production, as this group had a radio professional speak during a MSY session. However, some of the girls wanted to be filmed, so the program allowed the groups who had obtained permission slips to do so.

The WYWLA used attendance incentives sparingly since the expectation of participation and involvement were a part of the school day.

Using the Fooducate app, the facilitator implemented the grocery tour in the classroom. With the app, the girls scanned a product bar code and observed the rating from the app. They then stated the parts of the food that are beneficial or less healthy.

The Zebulon Boys & Girls Club

The Zebulon Boys & Girls Club is in a new facility in a rural part of Wake County. It is within walking distance from Zebulon Middle School. The Zebulon Boys & Girls Club is a loosely structured, after-school program that offers homework assistance, a computer lab, recreation activities, including a gym and pool tables, and a library/study room.

The ZebulonBoys & Girls Club offered MSY as a part of its “drop-in” after-school program for 10 sessions on Monday afternoons. Due to constraints, the facilitator condensed each program session to 60 minutes.

For the Big Production, the ZebulonBoys & Girls Club MSY participants created a radio advertisement jingle designed to promote physical activity among middle school youth and encourage them to “dance 60 minutes every day.” The jingle suggested doing the “Wobble” or the “Harlem Shake.” Staff promoted the radio ad jingle within the Zebulon Boys & Girls Club, on the Poe Center’s MSY Facebook page, and on the Poe Center’s website. Staff at this site did not involve any partners in the production.

Youth and Community Response to the Media-Smart Youth Program

"The kids most enjoyed doing and making things, especially getting to move."

Lauren McCallum, Coordinator

MSY Program participants most enjoyed “doing and making” things (especially “getting to move”). On his own time, one youth participant generated a personalized schedule for how he is going to integrate whole grains into his daily life.

Youth most enjoyed snack and physical activity time, as well as talking about media. Even though youth had been exposed to fresh fruit, yogurt, and cereal, the idea of combining them together for a snack, for example, was new. Youth also reacted favorably to the creative activities, such as the “Giddy Up Granola Bar” radio ads, jingles, action heroes, and posters/billboards. The students additionally liked being filmed and watching themselves on television—the Poe Center therefore attempted to film them whenever possible.

Youth least enjoyed the part of the MSY curriculum that “felt like school,” such as writing and recording on worksheets, the blog, the Q&A discussions, and the pre-curriculum assessment survey. One week, a couple of MSY Program participants began acting up during the worksheet writing activity and had to be asked to leave. Although 15 minutes may have been allotted for the worksheets, “youth were wrapping up their worksheets within 5 to 7 minutes.” Writing on newsprint, compared to writing on worksheets, was more acceptable to the youth.

Thomas Ray, the MSY Program facilitator, observed that youth in the rural setting wanted to appear knowledgeable of social media, when in reality smartphones and Internet access are very limited in their area. As is typical in this developmental stage, these youth “didn’t want to appear like they didn’t know” about certain media. Given this context, Mr. Ray reached out to Zebulon’s Eastern Wake News newspaper and requested that a journalist help youth create a print media product. In comparison, the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy worked with a radio station to produce a radio recording, and Ligon Middle School partnered with the high school’s television station to create a video.

From the informal feedback that Mr. Ray received and his own observations, youth are thinking, analyzing, and critically evaluating media around them.

All staff at both schools and the Boys & Girls Club were positive about the program. The Poe Center was asked if they could come back next year. An administrator at Ligon Middle School informed the MSY Program facilitator that the students were performing very well and participating more with Media-Smart Youth in comparison to their usual behavior. Every site was able to promote the program to other students and staff members at their school or club with their billboard productions and showing of the final Big Production footage. Parents and site staff were appreciative. Youth were notably sad that the program was ending.

Successes, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

MSY Program coordinator, Lauren McCallum, enlisted the following community partners to assist in the implementation of the MSY Program: (1) the Boys & Girls Club in Zebulon; (2) CONCERT (Communities Organizing to Nurture and Celebrate East Raleigh Talent), a local community-based organization; and (3) a school principal. Although permission from parents/guardians had already been obtained for their children to participate in activities at these sites, only a handful gave permission for their children’s media products (e.g., homemade filmed commercials) to be used in a public manner, such as being posted on a website.

In Mr. Ray’s experience, switching across a variety of activities in each lesson helped youth stay involved. His advice to future MSY facilitators is to “bring your own personal energy and excitement to the content.”

Although the preparation and purchasing aspects of the MSY Program are “labor-intensive,” Mr. Ray reported that the time allotted for the MSY sessions is “ample.” However, this time allotment did not fit with the schedules of the Boys & Girls Club, which was only able to offer a 1‑hour time slot. Therefore, the original 4:30 p.m. start time had to be moved to 4:15 p.m. because many parents had to pick up their kids at 5:15 p.m. Furthermore, to save on time, Mr. Ray prepared snacks 15 to 30 minutes ahead of time so that snacks were on kids’ plates when they came in, before beginning tabletop activities.

“Bring your own personal energy and excitement to the content.”

Thomas Ray, Facilitator

Conversely, the Wake Young Women’s Leadership Academy site completed 10 sessions but had to add an 11th one to finish the Big Production. Moreover, although 90 minutes is the designated amount of time for the Big Production, this site had to complete this activity within a condensed 70 minutes. Mr. Ray reported that this site was “the most consistently attended group and was the series that was held during the regular school day.”

If Ms. McCallum could adapt the MSY Program, she would add an 11th session or condense the last three sessions into one to have enough time to plan, practice, and film the Big Production. She concluded: “It’s been a fun learning experience,” suggesting that coordinators in the future “plan ahead, buy snacks in bulk, and add an extra session or consolidate the last three sessions.”

Looking Ahead

MSY is now part of the Poe Center’s menu of nutrition programming series and will be marketed with all of its regular promotions, including promoting MSY as a deliverable series for summer camps that serve upper elementary and middle school students. The Poe Center requested funding from the Department of Social Services to implement five MSY series during the 2013–2014 academic year. It plans to deliver three series during the school year and two series as a week-long summer camp in 2014.

The Poe Center delivered a presentation on the Media-Smart Youth Program at the North Carolina Healthy Schools Institute in Wilmington, North Carolina (a conference attended by 150 health education professionals from across North Carolina). Attendees were interested and enthusiastic about the curriculum. The Poe Center is considering offering future trainings at their facility.