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The Importance of Peer Influence and My HealthMPowers Experience

By: Citly Mojica

Pictured: Citly Mojica (left) with Dr. Dana Griffith, HealthMPowers Executive Program Director
This blog is the culmination of a collaboration between HealthMPowers and McClure Health Science High School. Student Health Advocates (SHAs) interned as research assistants on a project to determine how peer influence impacts student health. This is Citily’s experience. Student Health Advocates are student leaders trained by HealthMPowers to promote healthy eating and physical activity improvements amongst their peers and in their schools and communities.

 

Three months ago, I was given an opportunity to work with HealthMPowers as a member of the Student Health Advocate program at McClure Health Science High School. As a high school student, it is not every day that these opportunities are available. I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it because it turned out to be such a wonderful experience. As a team member on the project, my job was to gather research for a literature review on “The Power of Peer Influence.” As a student, I believe this is a very important topic and one that not many adults give much thought to.

Completing the Literature Review

To conduct the literature review, I had to research and find evidence that helped support how peer influence can result in positive health outcomes. At first, I thought I was going to have to find patterns in data and crunch numbers but ended up looking at many different types of research. I was also able to help by providing my own opinions and experiences in regards to how I have impacted others as a peer influencer, or how others have made an impact on me. Although reading multiple research papers is not the most exciting job ever, it was extremely beneficial because I’d like to become a lawyer, and I will have to do tons of reading and research.

Now, being a part of this big project might seem a little intimidating at first, but every person I worked with was extremely helpful and did not hesitate to help solve any problems that I ran into. They walked me through the literature review steps and were always there to answer my questions. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming, especially since they knew this project was completely different from what high school students typically learn in school.

I truly believe this project is very important and can change how kids learn in school. As a student, I understand that sometimes adults do not understand how some kids learn, but as students we understand each other. I can testify that sometimes I don’t quite understand what my teachers are trying to tell me, but I tend to understand when I ask a classmate. This is why I believe that peer influence is very important, not only in school but also in exercise and healthy habits, which was a key topic of the literature review.

As an active student, I understand that healthy competition can be wonderful motivation. I do karate, and I have so much fun competing with my friends in class and tournaments. It’s nice to battle my classmates during karate class and then hug each other after. Or laugh because someone went too fast and fell, or made some other silly mistake. I truly believe that if schools allowed more peer-to-peer interaction, students’ grades, test scores, healthy habits and amount of physical activity would improve.

The Benefits of my Internship

You may be wondering if any of this was helpful to me. Well, I want to go to the University of Georgia and study to become a lawyer, so yes! I gained so much research experience and learned how to eliminate unreliable research. I will definitely need these skills as a future lawyer.

Aside from the research, I also learned how to communicate with members of the group, how to work as a team and not be intimidated by something outside of my normal. As a student, I can tell you that dealing with the pandemic completely threw me off my schedule of going to school, coming home, eating and working out. But this project has taught me something, and that’s adaptability. I’m not mad about that! It was a wonderful experience, and I have no regrets.

In the end, I can say that I am so grateful for everyone who helped me through this project and to  HealthMPowers for being interested in a topic that can be extremely beneficial to so many students. I would recommend involving more students in the Student Health Advocate program. It was an amazing experience working with such wonderful adults who understand the struggles of being a student and who are willing to help with anything. I am grateful to Dr. Debra Kibbe, Dr. Dana Griffith, Dr. Lorenzo Almada, and Anaise Quirindongo from HealthMPowers. I would also like to thank Ms. Taylor. Thank you for including me in the project and offering me this wonderful opportunity.



Citly Mojica

Citly Mojica is an 11th grader at McClure Health Science High School who loves chemistry and math. She also enjoys working out with friends in her spare time. Citly's hobbies are practicing karate and playing with her dogs. In fact, she is a black belt in karate and has been practicing for nine years.