May 13, 2008

Teaching young adults good nutrition and parenting skills means a chance for their children to lead healthy, happy lives. So when approached with the possibility of collaborating on such a project, Susan Morgan jumped on it.

Morgan is the Expanded Foods and Nutrition Education Program assistant with the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service’s office in Henderson County. She teaches classes twice a month to students from the Earle C. Clements Job Corps Academy. The lessons alternate between nutrition and parenting.

“For us it’s about making a difference, and starting with young parents with young children can make a difference,” Morgan said.

Morgan offers the classes to members of a parenting club from the academy that travel to the extension office for the programs. Club members are in professional field training and all have children. She said program participants need a background in nutrition education so they can understand the effects nutrition has on issues such as obesity and attention deficit disorder.

“Today, we are going to talk about healthy snacks and activities to do with their kids,” she said. “We like to talk about some of the family rituals they had as a kid such as being read to and snuggling.”

Natasha Charles, senior career manager for the business and heath center, said the Job Corps academy serves students ages 16 to 24 who want to get a GED or high school diploma along with vocational training in more than 20 trades. The federal program has recruiters around the country where students can sign up to attend one of the residential academies. At the Earle C. Clements academy, students can obtain training in construction, business and health care and automotive. They have two years to complete their training, but most take a year or less to complete it.

Charles said the parenting club helps them cope with being away from their children and advances their parenting skills once they return home.

Charmaine Martin, 23, the mother of a 3-year-old said she’s been learning a lot from the parenting classes.

“I’ve learned about the vegetables and how many she’s supposed to have, and other things I really didn’t know,” she said. “She’s a healthy child and likes yogurt, string beans and bananas.”

Paul Remy is a single parent of a 1-year-old daughter and has found the classes useful. Having completed his training in concrete flat work, he hopes to get his GED soon and return to his daughter in Georgia.

“My mom’s really helping me take care of my daughter. The lesson we had last time included a pamphlet that had different meals on it, so I sent a couple to my mom, and they are working real good,” he said. “This is a very good program.”

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