Jackson Care Connect hosts youth Latino wellness class

MEDFORD, Ore. — Good habits require practice to take hold. If kids learn healthy behavior for their bodies and minds when they are young, they get a better start on establishing healthier habits for life.

Jackson Care Connect is starting a new program this month called Soy Fuerte, Sano y Seguro (I’m Strong, Healthy and Confident). Jackson Care Connect is a nonprofit Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) providing care for Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid) members in Jackson County.

Soy Fuerte, Sano y Seguro will meet for six weeks, Jan. 17 – Feb. 21, 6-7:30 p.m., at Jackson Care Connect’s Starting Strong store, 702 W Main Street, Medford. Two classes will meet at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA for a cooking demonstration and an exercise activity.

The group is designed for Latino youth, ages 10–13, to learn about overall health, including nutrition and cooking, exercise, healthy relationships and being active in the community.

“Each week, the group will focus on a different topic,” says Jovita Castillo, Jackson Care Connect’s health equity specialist, who will lead the discussions in Spanish. “The conversations will be driven by the kids’ interests, as they share what ‘healthy’ means to them. The class will be interactive, so that the participants can learn from each other”.

Victoria Bencomo, bilingual family liaison with the Southern Oregon Education Service District, will join the group for one session, when they address topics like stress, bullying and healthy relationships. Bencomo says these discussions are important to overall health, especially for kids who are bicultural.

“They live in two worlds,” Bencomo says. “They have to fulfill the expectations of the main culture and of their family culture. I will be there to let them express how they feel about that.”

Both Castillo and Bencomo want the kids to realize their own strength. “We often tell kids that they are beautiful and they are healthy, but we never tell them that they are strong,” Bencomo notes. “The earlier they learn that, the better.”

The group will also include a discussion about how to get involved in the community, as an important part of living a healthy life, being active and creating a sense of belonging.

Castillo says she hopes Soy Fuerte, Sano y Seguro helps kids to have more discussions about their health and to get more comfortable talking about it.

For registration, or more information, contact Jovita Castillo, 503-488-2799,

For information about Jackson Care Connect, contact Sara King Cole, 503-416-7791, or Jeanie Lunsford, 503-416-3626,

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