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After-School program in Monument Valley helps youth fight diabetes through active life-styles - Medically Speaking, Volume Three, Number Nine, 3/17/

Diabetes education and prevention at the UNHS Monument Valley Community Health Center is also focusing on students at Tse'bii'nidzisgai Elementary School with an after-school fitness program to encourage exercise and healthy life-styles for students.

Marlene Valentine is actually an employee of the Navajo Nation, who works with the UNHS staff at Monument Valley CHC. She is a Health Educator for the Navajo Nation's Kay-enta Service Area, which includes Monument Valley, Halchita, Oljato, Navajo Mountain, Ts'ah Bii Kin, Shonto, Dennehotso, and Kayenta. Marlene began working with UNHS in 2002, through the efforts of former UNHS CEO Donna Singer. She said her position is an unorthodox one, but she works to inspire adults and students to live a healthier life-style and she also promotes the fruit and vegetable recruitment program. This is a program that encourages students and adults to eat more fruits and vegetables and refrain from eating a lot of junk food and other unhealthy choices. Valentine received a Masters Degree from the University of Utah in Recrea- tion Therapy and has tried to incorporate an attitude of 'empowerment through activity' in her work with the Diabetes Health Education.

Her efforts with Tse´bii´nidzisgai Elementary include that same philosophy with after-school programs in volleyball and basketball for students in grades three through six. The program runs Monday through Thursday of each week and alternates between volleyball one week and basketball the next.

"We're trying to help kids develop healthier habits in a fun way through sports," Valentine explains. "We don't normally work with 2nd graders, although we've had a couple 2nd graders come out," she added. "It's amazing how quickly the 2nd graders were able to pick up the game, but we still work mainly with the upper grades."

According to Valentine the after-school program has been successful in getting students to participate and get involved with learning about a healthier life-style. She plans to continue the program and hopes to encourage more students to participate.

Another program Valentine is involved with is a summer youth program with the Canyonlands Field Institute, called Native Teen Guide in Training. Now in its fifth year, the program encourages high school students, including graduating seniors, interested in careers in outdoor recreation/river guiding to apply. According to Charlene Valentine, who helps coordinate the program, ten students from Monument Valley and five from Navajo Mountain are now being recruited for this year's program. Training begins on May 31 with First Aid and CPR training at Monument Valley High School. The training on June 1-2 is Land Based Training at Sand Island Camp. June 3-6 (3 nights and 4 days) is river rafting on the upper San Juan River.

Charlene says the training includes gaining knowledge about the environment of the Colorado Plateau, river rafting, water safety/rescue techniques, food preparation, water usage and preservation, use of plants for medicinal purposes and leadership skills/how to get along with others.

"Some of the kids hesitate when the training first starts, but they become closer knit by the end of the five days of training," Charlene says. "A lot of kids already have leadership skills but this training helps kick those skills higher."

Charlene Valentine has a Bachelors Degree in Biology from the University of Utah and has worked in the outdoor industry, including the Navajo Nation Fish & Wildlife Department for the past two decades.

Applications for the Native Teen Guide in Training program are now available and will be taken until the positions are filled. For more information, and to get an application contact Marlene Valentine at 435-727-3040 or Navajo Mountain High School Lead Teacher/Administrator Gary Rock at 435-678-1287.

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