About 125 central Arkansas youngsters learned about mental health, diabetes prevention and carers in healthcare during the Life Skills for Youth (LSY) Health Academy 2023, part of a 10-week summer program for kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The program, sponsored by Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, included presentations on mental health and diabetes prevention by employees.
At the end of the program, students, parents and grandparents gathered for a closing “white coat ceremony,” mimicking the ones held when medical school students start their clinical education. LSY staff members and Arkansas Blue Cross representatives presented each child completing the program with their very own white “doctor’s” coat. Four posters highlighting what the students had learned during the week were displayed nearby.
Rebecca Pittillo, executive director of the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas and Curtis Barnett, Arkansas Blue Cross president and chief executive officer, spoke to the students and adults who gathered. “I want to congratulate all of you on your white coats,” Curtis said. “We need doctors, nurses and all other types of employees in this field. To work in healthcare, you need to be smart, so study, and you need to be trained, so continue to learn, and most importantly, you need to care about people.”
LSY, a private, non-profit organization offering an after-school program was created by and is led by “Coach” Larry Clark, Sr. an Arkansas Blue Cross retiree. The program provides a positive alternative for youth, offers mentorship, and develops life skills.