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Gracie Likos leads exercises during SmartStart program at Boaz Intermediate School

Thu, Jun 10, 2021 at 03:38 PM

Marshall Medical Welcomes Back SmartStart Program

After taking a hiatus during COVID in 2020, this Spring Marshall Medical was thrilled to be back in schools to present the SmartStart program.

After a challenging year in healthcare, Marshall Medical Centers is excited to ease back into the routine of interacting with the community. One way of “getting back to normal” was by bringing the SmartStart youth program back for the 2021 spring semester for city and county schools in Marshall County.SmartStart offers 5th grade students the chance to learn about their changing bodies as they grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. Children entering puberty often feel insecure about their ever-changing appearance, but once they understand the how and why behind these changes they can feel more secure through this often awkward stage of life. The SmartStart program is made available to every elementary school in the county as a free resource to benefit as many 5th graders in Marshall County as possible. The SmartStart program aims to give students a comprehensive look at what changes they can expect to see physically and emotionally during puberty. This information is presented by a pediatric physician, who is not only well versed in the medical aspects of this topic, but also sees the effects puberty can have on a student’s life first-hand in a clinical setting. The topics covered in the lesson include: physical changes associated with puberty, changing emotions, nutrition and exercise. Puberty and adolescence can be a physical whirlwind; this program gives students a glimpse at how their bodies will be changing in the coming years and how they can be ready for those changes. And as hormones flare, emotions often do as well. This program also seeks to guide students to deal with these emotions in healthy, constructive ways, encouraging open dialogue with parents and guardians about any issues. Marshall Medical Centers was excited to have Dr. Alicia Ewing as this year’s physician presenter for the SmartStart program. Dr. Ewing began her career in private practice in 2007 and is currently a member of the Marshall County Pediatrics family. Dr. Ewing enjoys all aspects of pediatric care, from birth through the teen years and is excited to serve as the new program presenter. When asked about the importance of the SmartStart program, Dr. Ewing stated “We parents love to watch our kids grow and thrive but sometimes the idea of having your child enter puberty can be a little intimidating. What is the right thing to say? How do I explain this in a way they can understand? After having many conversations with families at Marshall County Pediatrics, it seemed to me that this program was a good way to reach out to a larger part of our community about this important topic.”School counselors and nurses have graciously offered their time and efforts to schedule and facilitate the SmartStart programs at their schools. Amy Williams, counselor at Albertville Intermediate School has been pleased with the program and its execution. “Dr. Ewing presented this sensitive yet essential information in an appropriate and engaging manner. Albertville Intermediate School really appreciates Marshall Medical Centers for providing this health education program to our students.”The second half of the class is a demonstration of the importance of staying physically active, with an interactive exercise presentation by a certified wellness instructor from the Marshall Wellness Centers. “Not every student likes sports, and that is perfectly fine. Team sports aren't for everyone, and you don't want to add extra pressure when a child may already be stressed. But physical activity is incredibly important in a child's healthy development through adolescence, so whatever fitness routine works best for each child is encouraged”, stated Gracie Likos, wellness instructor with Marshall Wellness Centers. In addition to being a healthy outlet for the physical body, regular exercise is also excellent for stress relief and emotional health.It is important that parents and guardians keep an open dialogue with their kids about the changes they are going through. Speaking openly and honestly is vital so there is no confusion. SmartStart is an educational springboard encouraging parents to help their child through the journey toward a healthy adolescence into a thriving adulthood.