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Cool Kid Activates Whittier

ABC7 Eyewitness News thinks Analaura Amezquita is pretty cool, and we couldn’t agree more.

The Los Angeles television station honored the Whittier teen with a “Cool Kid” award for her volunteer work helping to improve her community’s health.

It started when then 13 year-old Analaura and her mother Rosalia Calam enrolled in “Change Begins with Me,” a five-week YMCA class focused on developing long-term, healthy living habits. The course is sponsored by Activate Whittier, a collaborative with Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s Healthy Eating, Active Living (HEAL) initiative.

Mother and daughter took the training to heart. As Rosalia recalls, “I used to provide cereal in the morning. Now I know it’s important to eat fruit, and some protein at lunch – to eat a balanced diet.”

Analaura agreed. “Honestly, obesity shouldn’t be a problem – it’s something that can be stopped. We have the power in our hands to choose what to do, and if I can help others be the best they can, I will be happy.”

When she learned that Whittier’s obesity rate tops that of neighboring La Mirada and Cerritos, it drove the point home. “I wanted to change that,” stated Analaura, with friendly forthrightness.

So she did.

Timing was everything. Activate Whittier had just announced a logo design contest to launch “Healthy Picks,” which encourages corner grocery stores to stock healthier items – and shoppers to choose them. Analaura entered and won. Now, she spends weekend time at the stores, championing the program one-to-one with shoppers. 

“We explain what a Healthy Pick is and show them the options” she said. “At the beginning it was hard to talk to people. Now I kinda like it. Most of time people are really happy to know that someone cares about them.”

Prior to Healthy Picks, only 17% of the store’s customers paid attention to healthy food choices. A year later that number had increased to 50% -- and a whopping 70% of them actually purchased healthy items. The program has since expanded to several additional stores.

Now that’s making a difference in your community. And that’s cool.

But Analaura was just getting started. The Whittier High School freshman (with a 4.5 GPA) began serving as the health chair on the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA). She encouraged the school to adopt the Healthy Picks program on campus. They did.

Further, as Penny Lopez of Activate Whittier explained, “When the PTSA started learning about the correlation between obesity and test scores, they thought, ‘We can’t possibly continue to fundraise by selling Cheetos® and ice cream!’” With Penny’s help, Analaura brought forth a solution…and this May Whittier High will hold its first fundraising mud run. Cool.

Roberta Tinajero-Frankel, Community Benefit Manager at Kaiser Permanente Southern California seconds Analaura’s Cool Kid designation: “Analaura’s voice on her campus and in her community is a great example of what can happen when youth get involved and advocate for better choices. The voice of youth is powerful. School Boards, city councils and other leaders sit up and listen when a young person can articulate the challenges children and teens experience. Kaiser Permanente Southern California is proud to support Activate Whittier, and prouder still of Analaura and Rosalia’s work in their community."

See Analaura's story on ABC7.