THE BLOG
09/15/2014 03:57 pm ET Updated Nov 15, 2014

Youth Earn a Seat at the White House

Today, I'm proud and humbled that three Student Ambassadors from the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) program are taking part in the President's Council on Fitness Sports & Nutrition's roundtable discussions on youth health and wellness, and in-school nutrition at the White House.

As a mother of four children, I'm constantly amazed by the energy, enthusiasm and idealism of young people today, who want so much to make a positive impact on the world they live in. With ingenuity and quite frankly, business acumen beyond her 13 years, 8th grader Anisha's fitness trail in her New Jersey hometown of Piscataway affords her peers and community an opportunity to get more active. Shea, a 5th grader from Colchester, Vermont, has also demonstrated tremendous leadership to develop health and wellness programs that help students, teachers and even communities lead healthier, active lives. Local officials, news outlets and communities have taken notice of the essential voice of the student -- and now the White House itself is looking to learn valuable lessons from of our amazing FUTP 60 Ambassadors.

In addition to these great students, Tyler a 5th grader from Westminster, Colorado blew me away when he delivered a powerful "YOUth talk" to attendees of GENYOUth's recent Nutrition + Physical Activity Learning Connection Summit in Texas this past July. Tyler addressed a room of health and wellness and education's heaviest hitters on what the learning connection (the combination of proper nutrition and physical activity, resulting in improved academic performance, focus and behavior) means to him by sharing a very personal story. The room fell silent to hear every word that Tyler had to say. In all my professional years interviewing big executives with even bigger personalities, this role has shown me that nothing trumps the student voice to get people's attention.

Why it Matters

Many people say the children are our future, but they are making changes and taking leadership opportunities by the horns NOW. Anisha, Tyler and Shea's invitation to visit the White House today is recognition of the necessity of a student voice that is equal to, if not greater than other key stakeholders whose efforts support them.

Through GENYOUth's programs, Fuel Up to Play 60 and AdVenture Capital, we've seen time and time again that giving students the room to own change and believing in them, is the best possible way to make that change sustainable. Only one in three kids are active every day and with mounting evidence suggesting that active kids perform better when it comes to academic performance and concentration in class, there is a critical need to engage and empower students to advance health and wellness programs both inside, and outside of schools.

Building Healthier Schools and Stronger Student Leaders

Established five years ago in partnership with the National Dairy Council and National Football League, FUTP 60 is the nation's largest for-youth, by-youth school wellness program which engages more than 73,000 schools and reaching 38 million students nationwide to incorporate healthier choices into their everyday lives.

The GENYOUth Foundation was established three years ago, with the focus on broadening support for programs for youth health and wellness, like FUTP 60, nationwide. Through additional partnerships with corporations like SAP, new ground has been forged in empowering youth through the AdVenture Capital program, which has provided countless opportunities for students to drive healthy change in their schools.

I know that today's White House event is just one of the many steps that Anisha, Tyler and Shea will take on their leadership journey toward cultivating a healthier generation. Seeing these kids take the national stage with their passion and ideas is just one reason why I'm committed to growing the ranks of student leadership through GENYOUth Foundation and Fuel Up to Play 60. When students are part of the solution, real sustainable change happens, for generations to come.