The American Heart Association highlights real student stories to inspire healthy habits in schools nationwide
Fifteen students from coast to coast are joining the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all, to champion their peers to live heart healthy. Representing a diversity of backgrounds and experiences, these youth selected as national volunteer Youth Heart Ambassadors for the association’s in-school programs, Kids Heart Challenge™ and American Heart Challenge™ will share how heart disease and stroke have impacted their lives while encouraging others to establish healthy habits to better mental and physical well-being.
“The Youth Heart Ambassador role gives students a platform and voice to encourage, advocate and underscore the need to raise critical funding to end heart disease and stroke” said Matt Pearce, PhD, volunteer chair of the American Heart Association national superintendent board and Midwest board of directors, and superintendent of Republic School District in Republic, Missouri. “The stories these youth have to share are incredibly moving and inspiring and we are excited to see the impact they make on their peers throughout the 2023-2024 school year.”
The American Heart Association invited applicants ages 2-19 who have been affected by heart disease or stroke through a personal diagnosis, diagnosis of a loved one, or who are passionate about a heart healthy lifestyle change to submit their stories online for the opportunity to serve in this role. Over 200 youth submitted applications and Nora Polito, a fifth grader of Newport News, Virginia was selected amongst 14 other recipients nationwide by the American Heart Association as part of the 2023-2024 national class of Youth Heart Ambassadors. Nora shared that she’s inspired by her grandmother’s fight with heart disease to live a healthy life and she looks forward to encouraging her classmates to do the same.
In addition to the selection of the national class of Youth Heart Ambassadors, there were also two students selected from Hampton Roads to serve as spokespersons locally: Shane Rogers Johnson and Cayden Shipley. Shane, a tenth grader of Suffolk, Virginia is inspired by his grandparents, who both passed away from cardiovascular disease. Cayden Shipley, a first grader of Chesapeake, Virginia is inspired by his own survivor story. He’s had 3 open-heart surgeries, and 2 cardiac catheterizations.
Rooted in physical activity, Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge are service-learning fundraising programs that teach students how to improve their overall health while doing good for the health of others. Through interactive curriculums and various online challenges, participating students get active and have fun while raising critical donations and awareness for congenital heart defects, nutrition security, CPR training, mental well-being and more. These collective efforts help further the American Heart Association’s mission to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.
Schools interested in participating in either Kids Heart Challenge or American Heart Challenge can register now for the school year. For more information on the 2023-2024 Youth Heart Ambassadors visit heart.org/youthambassadors.