Meet The Teen Who Believes In The Power Of Breakfast
This story is part of our Choices Changemakers series, where each month we spotlight teens doing amazing things in their schools and communities!
Around 5 a.m. on a typical weekday when most of her classmates are still hitting snooze, Jennica Nugent's alarm rings and she rolls out of bed. She then hops on an early bus so that she can get to her Philadelphia cafeteria right when it opens. Why the rush? Well, students at Northeast High School depend on the 16-year-old for healthy breakfast options.
Jennica is the co-president of her school's Wellness Club, along with her classmate Anna. The pair sets up the Wellness Corner in the back of the cafeteria bright and early each morning. Daily tasks include slicing up fruit and creating fresh parfaits, where students can choose between vanilla or strawberry yogurt. The corner also features whole fruit, Nutri-Grain bars, Kashi cereal, whole-grain Cheerios, gluten-free Chex, fat-free milk, and more.
What sparked this change? The school's pre-existing breakfast options aren't as nutritious... or appetizing! "Everything was pretty much packaged," Jennica says. "Food would be frozen and then it'd be reheated. And if it wasn't eaten, it'd be thrown back in the freezer again. There was nothing that was fresh and good."
To make the Wellness Corner a reality, Jennica worked with fellow students and her physical education teacher Mr. Michaels, who advises the Wellness Club. They applied for a grant from AdVenture Capital—and they won! Jennica was one of seven teens in the country to receive this honor.
Jennica and her classmates' hard work paid off—their peers are loving the new food choices. "Anna and I will walk through the hallways and people stop us and say, 'Oh my gosh, you guys served us breakfast this morning! You're the parfait girls,'" Jennica says. But they're so much more than just "parfait girls"—they're breakfast ambassadors, who are on a mission to promote healthy eating among their classmates. Jennica explains,
"For some kids, lunch and breakfast at school are the only meals that they could be getting. Whether their families don't have money or a good meal at home, it's cheaper to go to Burger King and get a couple burgers than it is to go to the store and buy a bunch of fresh fruits and vegetables, unfortunately."
That's why she takes her role of serving breakfast very seriously—and it's what motivates her to wake up way earlier than most kids her age.
Inspired by Jennica's story? You can make a change, too. She shares this advice for getting started, especially when it involves speaking up on behalf of a cause you care about:
"The first step is actually having the confidence in yourself to be able to go out there... You have to be able to take that breath and feel confident in yourself that what you’re doing is not only right for yourself, but it’s right for everyone else too. You have to be able to know that no matter what harsh things people might say, it wont pull you back, it will probably just push you forward."
For more Choices Changemakers, read about Alex, who brought a salad bar to his school, and ASTEC Charter High School students, who started a recycling initiative. After that, join this month's Choices Challenge and fight for YOUR food!