Community Programs and College Mentors as Collaborators: An Evolving Approach for the Choose Health Action Teens (CHAT) Initiative

The Family & Youth Development and Nutrition & Health program areas of Cornell University Cooperative Extension in NYC (CUCE-NYC), in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Tiffany of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research at Cornell University, will build on the success of the Choose Health Action Teen (CHAT) initiative, which has been successfully implemented in NYC during the summers of 2018 through 2023 with CHE/CCE Summer Interns in major leadership roles.

After first learning the Choose Health Food, Fun, and Fitness (CHFFF) curriculum, upon which the CHAT project is based, the CHE/CCE Intern will work with the Summer CHAT team to implement CHFFF/CHAT trainings for youth agency leaders and teen leaders and subsequently mentor the agency leaders and teens as the six sessions of the CHAT curriculum are presented to school age youth at community agencies throughout NYC. The project has been successfully conducted in person (2018, 2019, 2021, 2022) and virtually during the summer of 2020, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Evaluation data reflect the positive impact of this project for both the CHFFF youth participants and the teen leaders in regard to healthy eating, active living and leadership skills.    The concepts and curriculum of the CHAT initiative have the potential to be adopted by other agencies, with training and ongoing mentoring. The 2023 CHE/CCE Intern will play a major role in training and supporting both the agency staff and teen leaders, as we seek to increase staff capacity at CHAT project sites that may include the Police Athletic Leagues (PAL) and other youth serving agencies. Thus, the CHE/CCE intern is essential to the effectiveness of this expanded version of the CHAT/CHFFF project in NYC.  OUTCOMES:  Strengthen skills of key youth workers to support implementation of healthy eating and physical activity programs within their respective agencies (based on the CHFFF and CHAT program models); Improve the eating and activity habits of youth and teens in NYC; Document key behaviors of College Interns/Mentors that support the success of teen leaders and key agency leaders in implementing CHAT.

Roles and responsibilities 

The CHE/CCE College Intern will provide ongoing support for training, implementation and evaluation of the CHAT Initiative, including training of key youth workers from the Police Athletic League (PAL) and/or other youth agencies as well as teen leaders from these agencies.  In addition, as part of the program team, the CHE/CCE intern will support youth agency leaders and teen leaders during implementation of the CHFFF sessions, and assist with data collection of the CHFFF, CHAT, 4-H and EFNEP evaluation surveys. The intern will also participate in ongoing program debriefs with project leaders, make recommendations for revisions needed to the CHFFF/ CHAT materials and/or program operations, as appropriate, and assist in development of program reports related to this project.   

Qualifications and previous coursework

This opportunity is available to students in Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.

The student should have prior experience working with youth (teens and/or school age youth), ideally in an urban setting(s).  Beginning level coursework in nutrition, community health, family and youth development and/or research and evaluation is strongly desired.  Strong computer skills are also needed.  Experience and comfort with public speaking experience, and effective teamwork skills are also needed.

Learning outcomes 

Through this engaged learning experience, the intern will develop an understanding of the realities of implementation and evaluation of community-based nutrition and positive youth development programs in a large urban setting, as well as curriculum development, and family and community engagement/ outreach.