Credit: Gene Wesley
Katherine Nieves, Jacelyn Cua, Ana
Maldonado and Jessica Deleon take part
in “Teen Esteem” at Trenton Central High
School. The program, directed by the
Women’s Heart Foundation, focuses on
exercise, nutrition, cardiovascular
health and self-esteem in adolescent
girls. Kathleen Ashton, clinical
associate professor of nursing at
Rutgers-Camden, is principal
High school gym class usually isn't equated with an opportunity to build a buff cardiovascular system. But since the beginning of the school year, 130 sophomore girls from Trenton Central High School have taken part in Teen Esteem, a girls-only alternative to traditional health and physical education classes.
Teen Esteem, offered by the Trenton-based Women’s Heart Foundation, in conjunction with the School Based Youth Services Program at Trenton Central High, is a cardiovascular disease intervention program for young women with a fitness and nutrition focus.
American teens experience diabetes, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and obesity at alarming rates. But cardiovascular health is not always given the attention it demands, says Kathleen Ashton, a clinical associate professor of nursing on the Camden campus who leads the Teen Esteem research component, which examines the relationship between exercise and nutrition and self-esteem.
“We want to teach the importance of doing something for yourself,” says Ashton, the author of numerous articles and papers on heart disease, which is currently the number one killer of women.
In addition to working with fitness equipment, led by fitness-certified gym instructors, the girls take part in weekly evaluations and complete interactive health-related assignments. They also contribute to the program by selecting music for workouts, decorating a wall with their heroes and heroines, and participating in a weekly taste-test kitchen.
Teen Esteem is managed and funded by the Women’s Heart Foundation. Additional funding includes grants from the Office on Women’s Health and the New Jersey Institute for Nursing.