During #blackhistorymonth, we are highlighting people who have made an impact in their community and spotlight important discussions regarding health and wellness.
Meet David Young, who volunteered for the ACEing Autism program in Williamsburg, VA and is an avid tennis player. He also started his own ACEing Autism program in Richmond, VA with Rachel Rhoney, the Assistant Director of the Mary & Frances Youth Center at VCU.
“I thought volunteering with ACEing Autism would be a way to further expand the opportunity to expose even more children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn or play,” the Executive Director for FRIENDS Association for Children explained. “Physical activity and exercise are critical components of good health, and tennis is an excellent way to get both. It truly is a sport that can be played for one’s entire life.”
When asked what first came to mind with the words Black Health and Wellness, he stopped for a second then said: “I think about how much the world has changed for children, both locally and globally. Obviously, some changes have been good like the advancements in technology, medicine, communications, (etc.). But on the other hand, I also think of the negative impacts that some of these changes have had on children, on their growth and on their development – physically and mentally – that was not anticipated,” the always positive and energetic David observed.
“I work with and spend a lot of time thinking about children, especially black children. I think about how many inner-city children do not have the same access and opportunities to engage in activities that can improve their health and well-being. This often manifests in adults, who suffer from obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol,” as he’s seen it firsthand. “When information, education and opportunity regarding healthy choices and lifestyles are limited for those who care for and nurture children, the unhealthy practices can often become generational.”
Even though he’s been fortunate to have the support he needed growing up, David recognizes lessons he’s learned through his own life experiences. “How important it is to take care of ourselves – both physically and mentally – and to consistently practice “self-care. I believe it’s important to find ways to get children to try new things (new foods, games and sports) whether they “think” they can do it or not. They often surprise us and themselves.
To that extent, David has been passionate about exposing children in his preschool and after-school programs to new things. “The blaring lights and sirens in emergencies can be frightening to a child, especially children on the autism spectrum, so I bring police & firefighters into my classes to meet the children and help them understand that these are our ‘Community Helpers’ and that they don’t have to be afraid of them.”
Lastly, it was important for David to share the difference in access (quality foods at affordable prices, programs that teach healthy choices and lifestyles), which leads to differences in health issues experienced in the black community. “I have participated in studies regarding life expectancy and air quality in black and POC communities compared to white communities.
Unfortunately, they found that something as simple as air quality (due to a lack of trees and other greenery) can decrease life expectancy by 10-15 years.”
Even through all this, David believes that through “concerted efforts and investments to level the playing field for our children (when it comes to access) will give future generations a fair chance to realize their full potential and live long, healthy lives. I honestly believe that it all starts with education, opportunity, and access.”