Salem Health CHEC hosts wellness event for area teens

More than 30 local high school students gathered at the Salem Health CHEC on Jan. 24 to learn about teen wellness. Salem Health sponsored and presented the first-ever ILEAD X (short for extended) event focused on teen wellness.

“These kids want to learn how to manage life better, like all of us do,” said Laurie Shaw Casarez, City of Salem youth development coordinator. “They’re starting to see that the more they know at a younger age, the better they may be at managing life and taking care of their health and well-being as they grow older.”

The ILEAD X event tied into the 11th year of the ILEAD Youth Leadership Summit, a collaborative partnership between the city and Marion County, plus area nonprofit youth organizations. The fall workshops emphasize leadership, personal development, advocating for issues teens care about — plus goal setting, effective communication and service leadership.

Surveys of teens who attended previous ILEAD events revealed that stress is a big factor for students at home and at school. They also expressed interest in learning how to manage stress.

“That’s one of the areas the CHEC staff excel in,” said Cyndi Leinassar, Salem Health community relations liaison. “We have classes that help people learn how to be more mindful of what’s happening in their body, making healthy food choices, and managing stress with mindfulness. This just seemed a logical connection — and we want to make sure that adolescent mental health stays strong.”

Salem Health educator leads mindful movement class with teenagers.

The teens learned from Salem Heath CHEC educators about how they can cope with stress through exercise, mindful movement and meditation.

“I learned that meditation can actually help because I always thought it was a myth,” said Angel Franco, South Salem High School sophomore. “I felt so relaxed when I did it. You can do a lot to help reduce your stress.”

Teenagers making healthy food choices at Salem Health wellness event.

Many of the students were surprised about nutrition and the major role it plays in how they feel throughout the day.

“I learned about sugar intake and how we’re only supposed to have 24 grams in a day. I didn’t know that,” said Raquel Marquez, McKay High School senior. “Now, me and my friends are going to make healthy smoothies to try and take care of ourselves more.

Organizers hope the teens’ new knowledge will ultimately impact others.

“The ripple effect would be that they would head back to their schools and neighborhoods and be equipped to create more positive change in those areas,” said Shaw Casarez.

“Salem Health is dedicated to adolescent mental health. If we can improve this program next year, expand it to have more youth come, then we will truly make an impact in our Marion-Polk County area,” said Leinassar.

Learn more about upcoming events and classes at