By Noely Resendiz
On Saturday, October 22, television’s Dr. Mehmet Oz visited the eastern Coachella Valley to announce an initiative to improve the health of students at Coachella Valley High School, through his HealthCorps Foundation.
Dr. Oz got a tour of the campus and talked to students about ways to eat healthier.
The initiative includes hiring a coordinator—Naomi Soto—who will be a health care liaison to students at the school for two years. Soto says she has this message for students: “Health doesn’t have to be boring; being healthy is not something you do once you’re sick,” Soto said. “Being healthy is a lifestyle you can develop now.”
Soto is one of 54 coordinators placed in high schools in 13 states by HealthCorps.
“The students are excited that someone of Dr. Oz’s status sees the potential of C.V.H.S. and the eastern Coachella Valley,” Soto said.
HealthCorps main focus is to fight the obesity and mental resilience crisis by getting American students and communities across the country to take charge of their health, according to the foundation’s website.
Soto said healthy eating habits are key to achieving this goal. She hopes the habits she teaches students will help them make healthy eating decisions daily and influence their family and friends.
Her intention, Soto says, is not to make an overnight diet transformation. She wants students to begin by drinking more water and eating five servings of vegetables.
“Little changes that are sustainable are what I’m focused on,” Soto said. “Being a teenager is a special time when you are deciding the kind of life you want to live. They have control over so many things right now. We are simply empowering them to be their own decision-makers.”
HealthCorps focuses on three main aspects: Educating the Student Body, Creating FitTowns and Advocacy.
Soto said she teaches students about the importance of proper nutrition, being physically active, and mental resilience.
“For comprehensive, holistic health you need to cover all three,” Soto said. “It’s never going to be enough if you just do one.”
Soto believes physical health does not necessarily mean spending hours at the gym, but being active and engaging in enjoyable activities. Learning how to overcome hardships and obstacles are part of developing mental resilience, she said.
“We need to have the courage and the mental strength and resiliency to be like, ‘You know what, I can deal with that,’” Soto said.
Soto is working with the student body, as well as talking to educators about how to incorporate health consciousness into the curriculum.
“I think I’m going to be able to expand on what my initial goals,” she said.
* Coachella Unincorporated Staff contributed to this report.