Our Healthy Works series gives you a behind-the-curtain look at the passionate leaders who further our mission of empowering healthy habits and transforming environments where children live, learn and play.
Say HELLO! to Forrest Ann Anderson, a self-proclaimed “health nerd,” from Georgia who’s been with HealthMPowers for two months as an Elementary Health Educator. But, don’t be fooled by this bilingual (she speaks fluent Spanish) newbie, she’s been a member of the team since she was in the 4th grade. Read on to learn more about Forrest Ann’s role and her passion for empowering healthy habits for all of Georgia’s children.
How did you hear about HealthMPowers?
I first heard about HealthMPowers when I was in the 4th grade. I was a student at Friendship Elementary, one of the first groups of schools that HealthMPowers worked with. I was invited—along with a dozen or so other students around my age—to attend a camp hosted by the organization. One of the activities during the camp was to create an exercise video to demonstrate different exercises that you can do at home or in the classroom. We used canned goods to do bicep curls, and chairs to demonstrate different stretches. We also created a step video. I think they used those resources in schools for a long time!
Years later, during my junior year of college, I ran into Christi Kay (President, HealthMPowers). She asked what I was doing, and I told her that I was one year away from completing my Public Health degree at the University of South Carolina. She asked if I remembered my experience with HealthMPowers, and it brought back those old camp memories. That’s when I started thinking about it as an actual organization and possible career path, as opposed to being a nine-year-old attending a camp.
What inspired you to work here?
My time in the Peace Corps. For the past two years, I was in Guatemala teaching teachers and elementary school students
about health and wellness. It was very similar to the job I’m doing now as a Health Educator at HealthMPowers. During that time, there were parts of the experience that I really liked and parts that were really difficult. When my two years there ended, I looked for a job to come back to and HealthMPowers was hiring. The job description was very similar to the parts that I really enjoyed about my time in the Peace Corps, so it kind of seemed like the next step.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
If I’m in the office, I am mainly communicating with the 14 schools throughout Georgia that I am in charge of. This involves organizing in-school events and services with our school health teams, drafting monthly emails and making sure they have all of the resources they need and are sending in data to ensure they are meeting the objectives they set at the beginning of the year.
If I’m out of the office, that means I’m at one of my schools. Even though I’m fairly new to HealthMPowers I was lucky enough to be able to attend at least one of each type of service the Elementary Setting has before schools transitioned to virtual classes, and we started working from home. I did the Taste Truck, which is when we go to schools and hand out samples of the current Harvest of the Month (HOTM). We had carrots because the HOTM was root vegetables. The students taste it and then vote on whether they “Liked it, Loved it or Tried it.” I also got to see the BodyWalk. This is when we go to schools and set up a maze of little tents that represent different organs in the body. Students walk through and learn about each of the organs and get to ask questions. It’s a lot of fun. We also conduct trainings for teachers and members of our school health teams.
What are you working on right now that excites you?
There’s a lot of change right now with schools transitioning to virtual classrooms and HealthMPowers working from home. Some schools are coming up with really cool ways to promote Eat. Drink. Move! with their students, like creating YouTube channels to broadcast lessons and messaging.
At HealthMPowers, our mission is empowering healthy habits and transforming environments where children live, learn and play. How do you challenge yourself to be a living example of our mission?
One of the things that I am weirdly proud of is that I LOVE water! I definitely drink more than eight glasses a day. I also make sure to exercise at least 30 minutes every day. Especially during this time when we’re all social distancing. I look at YouTube for exercise videos, and my gym hosts a Zoom call where we can all work out together. If neither of those is an option, I go for a walk around my neighborhood, which is something easy that everyone can do. I’m also very conscious of my fruit and vegetable consumption, and after a while, it just becomes a habit.
What do you enjoy most about working at HealthMPowers?
The HealthMPowers team. I just really enjoy everyone who works here. It’s a close-knit group. And it really shows now that we’re all having to work from home.
What is one of your fondest memories of working at HealthMPowers?
Working on the Taste Truck! Some kids are brutally honest with you and tell you that they hated the carrot you just gave them, but some kids are genuinely excited, and you can tell that they’re not just being nice about it. They light up and say things like “Oh my gosh! That was really good!” and it just makes me so happy.
What keeps you inspired and motivated?
Again, the HealthMPowers team! Everyone motivates and inspires each other. There’s no complaining, it’s always how can I help? I like that type of environment, that’s what keeps me motivated and inspired.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
My time in the Peace Corps! One important lesson I learned during my time in Guatemala is flexibility. They tend to take it day by day there, and I learned that the hard way. For example, I’d plan a training 2 weeks in advance, then show up and the school would be closed that day. Or I would expect 50 people to attend an event, and only 5 would come. I had to learn to “go with it” and adjust to the situation. A skill that I’m really happy I gained. Also, two years is a long time, so I’m very proud that I completed the program. FaceTime with my mom every Sunday helped!
Do you have a favorite quote?
When I think about what I want to do with my life and what I want to do in the world, this is a quote that inspires me: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” ~Anne Frank