Some kids can get all the advice they want from a parent or teacher, but most will actually listen more to a role model who's just a few years older than them. That's one of the reasons a new program in South Dakota uses teens to teach elementary school students about healthy eating and exercising.
Sierra Fiala and Nicole Loe might not look like typical teachers but the teenagers hope to make as much, or more, of an impact.
"They look up to us more, rather than teachers or parents almost, because they see us walking through the hallways. If we play basketball, they want to be a basketball player. They want to do this like us; teaching kids about healthy eating," Fiala said.
The teen teachers, like Fiala, even get scholarships to teach healthy habits, everything from a healthy snack to how to properly brush your teeth.
"We did some other programs for Team Nutrition, and we found out that about 30 percent of students in our area are obese. Compare that to the population of our school; that is around 150 to 200 students," Baltic FCCLA Adviser Suzy Ries said.
Along with lessons in the classroom, the teen teachers also introduce younger students to different physical activities to play outside.
"We find that with the rise of technology, even e-readers and things like that, that there's so much technology bombarding kids that we forget that we just need to get out and play," Ries said.
While the teens are playing the role of teacher, they too are learning life-long lessons and they hope to impact others outside the classroom.
"Even to pass the information on to parents then to have them make better choices too. Maybe at the grocery store the kids can say, 'Let's grab some bananas instead of chips,' and things like that," Ries said.
Because one lesson the teachers have learned is it's going to take the whole community to tackle the growing problem of childhood obesity.
"It's frightening just seeing all these statistics about childhood obesity and all the contributing factors. There are not many programs out there helping against childhood obesity," Fiala said.
Besides the $500 scholarship for the teen teachers, schools get $500 towards fresh fruit. The program is run by and paid for by several organizations, including the South Dakota Extension Service, FCCLA and Walmart.