Youth health ambassador Jaxson Ratliff, a 2018 graduate of The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program, gives a school demonstration to Johnson County students about the importance of good health.

2018 Rogers Scholar Jaxson Ratliff is making an impact on the mental and physical health of elementary students in Johnson County.

Ratliff, a junior at Johnson Central High School, partnered with Highlands Regional Medical Center and UK Markey Cancer Center to serve as a youth health ambassador encouraging good health habits among young people in Eastern Kentucky for his Rogers Scholars community service project.

During the project, he visited local elementary schools and talked to more 200 fourth- through sixth-grade students about some of the major health concerns in Kentucky. Some of the health issues addressed were obesity, tobacco, cardiovascular health, and mental health.

“As an avid weight lifter, it’s important for me to help other young people see how caring for their bodies can positively affect them now and in the future,” said Ratliff, a graduate of The Center for Rural Development’s Rogers Scholars program. “Your physical health affects everything from your grades to your lifespan. It is not something that can be taken for granted.”

Ratliff worked with health-care officials to research the common health risks in Eastern Kentucky and develop an engaging, interactive school presentation.

“Jaxson’s presentation was truly fantastic and had such a positive impact on our students,” said Rachel Stone, a fourth-grade teacher at WR Castle Elementary School. “His material was exciting and hands-on. Many of the students will benefit from this project for years to come.”

Ratliff designed an informative, educational program that could be easily understood by older elementary students. He even created diagrams and hands-on materials for the students to take home as well as a post-test to assess the effectiveness of the project.

The Rogers Scholars community service project was made possible through a partnership with Highlands Regional Medical Center, UK Markey Cancer Center, Johnson County schools, and Johnson County Board of Education.

Ratliff is the son of Nick and Amanda Ratliff of West Van Lear.