Community health fair at Imhotep Charter highlights lessons about life, sickness and even death
December 5, 2012By Yasmein James for NewsWorks
"Sexual health has gotten pushed to the side and I am hoping to get them engaged, create dialogue and feel open to answer questions and know they can be in charge of their sexual health."
-- Kamela Jefferson, education coordinator, Imhotep Institute Charter High School
Instead of sitting in science class on Tuesday, students at the Imhotep Institute Charter High School explored several health issues at the school's first annual Community Health Fair.
Packed in the school gymnasium, the students visited more than 30 tables where they picked up information, free writing utensils and fan-favorite nutritious snacks.
Jeffrey Williams, the East Germantown school's principal, said there were two goals for the event: to teach students about some health issues which plague the African-American community and encourage self empowerment.
"We empower them through education as they go to school everyday," Williams said, "but we bring in components that enable the students to empower themselves as far as their mind and body and how all of that is connected. We are hoping they take that information and make it a life practice."
Williams also said that he hoped students would take information from the fair home in order to discuss health issues with family members.
What they learned
In the middle of the room, Imhotep's education coordinator Kamela Jefferson was stationed by the Youth Health Empowerment Project Table. There, Jefferson discussed sex and health.
"Sexual health has gotten pushed to the side and I am hoping to get them engaged, create dialogue and feel open to answer questions and know they can be in charge of their sexual health," said Jefferson.
She cited data which holds that Philadelphia has one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases among comparable states as evidence of the topic's importance on Tuesday.
Tenth grader Mya Kitchen, who played "Sexual Health Jeopardy" and "The Great Condom Race" at the table, said the information will enable her to make wiser decisions regarding her health when she decides to become sexually active.
"I am learning when I am ready to move on to that type of situation, and how to move on and ask partner questions, buy the condom and make sure that it is not ripped so that I can't get pregnant or get anything I don't want," said Kitchen.
Students were also able to blood-pressure tests at two tables and consider donating blood if they were 18 years of age or older.
When Timaya Hedgepeth gladly did the former, she was shocked to learn that it was considered a little high for her age.
Prior to testing, she was unaware of any family history, but knows that diabetes runs in her family. She said she plans to watch her salt and sugar intake and stay active.
In a nearby library, Stephanie Renee from 900 AM WURD and her guests were discussing how various life moments can affect the quality of health during a live broadcast.
The Northwest Community Coalition for Youth also hosted a short workshop with a mother who lost her son through bullying.
On a poster board behind Antoinette Johnson were photos of her son Ali and one of his young daughter.
She described him as "well known and well mannered." Then, she talked about how their great relationship turned into one in which he wouldn't why he was coming home with busted lips and the like as a 16-year-old. The more she pried, the more he pulled away telling her that it was nothing.
When the bruises stopped, she thought everything was okay. It wasn't until Ali turned 21 that she realized what had been going on all those years: Ali was being bullied by a friend's boyfriend.
Bullying escalated to the point of no return when they came in contact again as Ali was at the friend's house when the boyfriend showed up. Two separate altercations took place that same day, the last one killed Ali.
To further illustrate the importance of speaking up when you're being bullied, Johnson turned the poster board around to photo of Ali in the morgue, a "D.B.S." (or death before snitching) tattoo on his chest.
"He never got a chance to hold his baby because of bully," said Johnson, who survived drug addiction, but tried to commit suicide twice because of her son's death.