Healthy bodies, healthy minds

Frances Rico and her daughter, Aacia.

Frances Rico and her daughter, Aacia. by Jeff Burkhead

Frances Rico believes it is important to practice what she preaches.

Rico, who during the school year is a mental health clinician at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, spends her summers working with youth to help them understand the connection between physical health and mental health. Rico is a member of the WRAP (Working to Recognize Alternative Possibilities) team at Bert Nash, a collaborative program with the Lawrence School District that places a master’s-level clinician in local schools. When school is out of session, Rico and other WRAP clinicians continue to work with middle school and high school youth through the Bert Nash summer program called Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds. There is also a Bert Nash summer program for elementary students.

Rico has helped develop the secondary school curriculum for the Bert Nash summer program, which meets four days a week at Free State High School. The eight-week program runs from the beginning of June to the end of July, but Rico started planning last January for this summer’s program. The summer curriculum is a combination of time spent outdoors and classroom instruction. Presenters from the community are also brought in to share their expertise about areas such as meal planning and nutrition.

“We cooked once a week and focused on cooking a healthy meal. We would add healthy ingredients or adjust recipes to fit a healthier dish, such as adding veggies or using wheat flour versus white,” Rico said. “We also had a kick-boxing trainer from Summit come in to instruct an activity with the kids. We utilized our location at Free State to walk to Dillons to discuss affordable ways to shop for healthier food items, and walked to the T-Loft to discuss healthy food items they can create at home such as smoothies and juices.”

Rico knows from firsthand experience how exercise and a healthy lifestyle can improve a person’s mental outlook. Through exercise, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, Rico has transformed her own body and attitude. She has spent the past year or so training for bodybuilding competitions.

“Not only does a healthy lifestyle prevent illness and disease, it helps us to feel better about ourselves and have a better outlook on life,” she said. “That is what my passion is. I always wanted to combine my profession as a social worker and passion for mental health education with my passion for fitness education. I want kids to understand there is a strong connection between physical health and mental health.”

Thank You to the following:

Summer 2015 Contributors The Merc Co-op
Dillons Sprouts Farmers Market Party America Chipotle Fuzzy's Taco Shop Juice Stop Taco Bell CiCi’s Pizza Rudy’s Pizzeria Papa Keno’s
Sonic Drive-in Eileen's Colossal Cookies Acme First Watch Great Harvest Bread Co.

Community Support/Agencies The Summit Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department USD 497 Garden Coordinator Bert Nash Health Connections The Kansas State Outreach Program T. Loft

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