From 2006 – 2008, CLOCC ran a pilot program where we trained high school students from across the city to become members of the “Go Team,” a group charged with teaching the 5-4-3-2-1 Go!® message to young children across the city by leading them in games and activities. Over 25 high school students served as Go Team members over the two years, and they presented the message to over 5,000 children throughout Chicago. Recently, as part of our 10th anniversary celebration, we caught up with four of our alumni to find out what they are up to and to hear about their memories of the Go Team experience.
Ivan Zavala, a graduate of Kelly High School, was the only Go Team member to participate in the project from beginning to end. He is now 20 years old and a second-year student at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago working toward becoming a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Ivan credits his experience in Go Team with giving him a foundation in health and starting him on a path that has led him to his interest in alternative medicine. He enjoyed his time with Go Team and its focus on teaching young children. “I like the commitment of Go Team to educate kids,” he stated. “We have an epidemic of childhood obesity and modern disease. I like that we went to the kids because kids are the foundation to the future. This nation is the tree and the kids are the root, and if you water the root, the tree will be prosperous.” Ivan is committed to healthy choices in his own life, sharing, “I take a walk every day, and I always follow the five fruits and vegetables a day recommendation. I have developed a taste for them – my palate has changed!”
Click on the video below to hear Ivan share one of his favorite Go Team memories:
Jamal Nelson, a graduate of Robeson High School, is now 20 years old and a sophomore at Knox College in Galesburg, IL, majoring in education and literature. He plans to become a teacher and to pursue his interests in writing and art. Jamal credits his Go Team experience with giving him more confidence, stating, “Go Team had a big effect on me. It was my first job – having that kind of responsibility. Being in front of people and having to lead – that was my first experience like that ever.” Go Team was also Jamal’s first experience being around young children. “It was fun seeing the kids’ face – they enjoyed everything we were doing. I miss that – the enjoyment. I found out that kids can laugh and have fun and play around with me, and I became freer about playing with them. They were all having fun and smiling. I never thought I would have the ability to be that personable with young kids. I really enjoyed that.”
Jamal’s favorite Go Team memory is of his very first event as a member of the team: “One of the best memories I have was actually the first day that I started. We were at this preschool in Little Village. I remember freaking out before I even started. I was sitting there and trying to get myself ready to do this. I’m like, ‘I know what I’m going to say, I know what I’m going to say,’ and then, as soon as all the kids came out, there were so many of them. I stood there and thought, ‘Oh my God. I’m not ready to do this.’ I looked at my teammates, and they are looked at me like, ‘Calm down. You’re all right.’ And I thought, ‘You could tell me that but I’m not going to be able to do that.’ And then they pretty much throw me out there and say, ‘Do what we just did. You know what to do.’ And I remember when they first let me talk, and I just started doing it. I don’t know how, I don’t know what in my body let me do it, but as soon as they gave me the floor, I was able to conduct the event just like they did it. As scared as I was, I was able to do it. And then they all said, ‘Good job, good job – you know what you’re doing.’ The reason why that is such a good memory of mine is because I just remember being in front of so many kids and my first-ever experience of talking in front of a big crowd and just accomplishing it. It was something I never thought I could do, and I did it – not just for the members on the team but also for myself. The first day – that’s what I’m always going to remember.”
Keanna Johnson, a graduate of the Chicago Math and Science Academy, is now 21 years old and attending school studying elder-care nursing and home assistance. She is also the mother of a three-year-old daughter, who Keanna is raising to follow the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! recommendations. Keanna enjoyed her time in Go Team and particularly liked meeting other high schoolers who shared the same interests as she did. Some of the information she learned about barriers to healthy eating as a Go Team member has resonated with her now that she is a mom. “I realized that although this is a good message to send out, it can also be an expensive message depending on the neighborhood you live in. I try to keep my family healthy, but trying to keep the refrigerator filled with fruits, vegetables, and dairy products can put a dent in my pocket. I also remember learning in Go Team that, depending on the neighborhood you live in, the prices of the healthy food can vary, and I noticed that is true.” Keanna’s favorite Go Team memory is about the team spreading the word about 5-4-3-2-1 Go!: “The memory that stands out is the thought of a group of young people travelling all around Chicago together to promote healthy eating and physical activity to children. That just really stands out to me.”
Deonta Blandin, a graduate of Al Raby High School, is now 21 years old and a student at Wright College in Chicago. He is also a courier with FedEx and the father of a two-year-old son. Like fellow parent Keanna, he is also following the 5-4-3-2-1 Go! recommendations at home, sharing, “I still use the fun tips and facts we learned about a healthy lifestyle in Go Team. We buy more fruits and vegetables at home and keep active as a family.” Deonta liked the flexibility of the message, noting, “I liked that the message wasn’t just for a specific person, but for everyone of all ages – kids, teens, adults, parents, and grandparents.” He found his time in Go Team “a life changing experience,” and felt that it would be great if the Go Team reach went even further than it did, stating, “We did a lot of events that I wish we were still doing. It was what the city needed, and I think it is what our country needs.” Deonta has several favorite Go Team memories: “I just remember the smiles and laughter on the kids’, teens’, and adults’ faces when we challenged them, how most people caught on quickly to what we were teaching. I remember being part of the team – brainstorming, being educated also, doing interviews, and making videos. We had a great pact, and we were a great Go Team!”