On May 16, Village Reader’s Academy and the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County hosted the Growing Young project. The project offered free evening English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes to the parents of students who that attend the school. While caregivers were in their ESOL class, the students participated in an exciting knowledge-filled evening. LeaderCorps Cohort Chair, Vickie Melus, lead the Growing Young program as an interactive night of learning about the importance of physical and mental health.

The night began with the children defining the term healthy in their own words. This lead to the discussion about the impact nutritious foods, exercise and positive thoughts have on the body and the daily choices individuals make.

Later in the evening, a film was shown of a student feeling too nervous to answer a teacher’s question in fear of giving the wrong answer or being looked down upon by her peers. The group was able to have an open discussion about recognizing growth and defined failure as “proof you are learning.” The children and Melus created an affirmation that could be recited to reinforce the importance of maintaining a positive mindset.

“I don’t like to raise my hand in class because when I say the answer wrong in class I feel nervous and embarrassed. Next time, I’m going to say, So what if I get embarrassed? and raise my hand anyways,” said one of the students.

Incorporating physical health, the students participated in a Zumba exercise class. The activity allowed the kids to experience the impact exercise has on one’s mood. Once the kids were energized, confident and well versed in the brain’s functions they were led to the cafeteria to share their new knowledge with their caregivers. The parents were asked to take a break from their ESOL classes to join the children and Melus in the cafeteria because family time is important.

The students and their caregivers participated in two experiments together. The children and their parents made ice-cream to learn about how salt impacts water’s ability to change states. In the second activity, they created lava lamps to learn about density and oil’s inability to dissolve in water. The students said they felt like scientists.

“One kid wanted to take the whole experiment home with him to show his siblings,” said a caregiver.

Chipotle donated over two dozen burritos and members of the community donated fresh Publix fruit platters and sandwiches so the families had time to have a healthy dinner together and discuss everything experienced that night.

Each child left with a handful of books to help grow their mind, and each parent was given a care package filled with thermometers and first aid kits to assist them in creating a healthy life for their children.