The HealthStars of 3rd Street

by Mary Castillo

3rd-Street-Youth-Center-and-Clinics-2011-Youth-Action-Board, The HealthStars of 3rd Street, Culture Currents There is an old saying: “Do as I say and not as I do.” 3rd Street Youth Center and Clinic’s daily activities and special events are designed with the complete opposite of that philosophy in that they empower and develop leadership in youth from Bayview Hunters Point.

Returning after a successful pilot year, 3rd Street is bringing back its summer HealthStars program for youth ages 12 to 24. Youth in the program complete tasks in the categories of healthy body, healthy mind and healthy community while earning points towards great prizes.

“We want to send the message that teens can take ownership of their health while having a good time.” said Sharon Papo, executive director of 3rd Street.

3rd Street’s therapist, Aliya Sheriff, PsyD., helped organize the programming and workshops. “If someone comes in and wants to lose weight, we sit down and create a comprehensive nutrition plan that addresses what they are eating and the kind of activities they can do,” she said. “They receive stars for creating the plan and taking steps towards meeting their goal like cutting out soda or eating more vegetables.”

The program offers classes on belly dancing, yoga, art and weekly workshops on topics including stress reduction and self defense. Additionally, opportunities to work one-on-one with staff to map a personal support system or create a healthy nutrition plan are also available. At the end of the program, 3rd Street throws a party to celebrate those with the most stars.

True to its mission to serve youth, the HealthStars workshops and activities offered are based on the needs of the youth who come into 3rd Street throughout the year.

“We are seeing many overwhelmed and stressed youth, dealing with difficult situations that range from turning 18 and leaving a foster home to a young person losing a friend or loved one and reeling from the trauma of that experience,” Sheriff said.

Sheriff will lead workshops on stress management and positive relationships which introduce participants to positive and healthy coping skills. Even more important, she hopes participants will shed the fear and shame of approaching a therapist with depression, domestic violence and emotional trauma.

“Our youth face a vast array of challenges and for many, 3rd Street becomes a home base for them that provides a support system as they transition from young teens to young adults,” she said.

Mario Balcita, youth development specialist, works directly with youth leaders who guide and organize many of the center’s programs and events throughout the year. He sees youth with experiences most only see in movies. He has also witnessed many of these youth develop into leaders and mentors to the younger teens.

“Each day I am inspired by the young people who come through our doors,” he said. “Despite all of the things said about this community, these young people push through and commit to change, creating a healthier and stronger community.”

Jimmica Collins, 22, is a youth leader who first came to 3rd Street because she needed a place to do her homework while in high school. Inspired by her grandmother, who worked with seniors in the community, she got involved in the center’s activities and eventually joined the Youth Action Board. At one point, she found herself at San Francisco City Hall speaking before the mayor and Board of Supervisors about the importance of funding programs for at-risk youth.

“It was intimidating,” she said. “But I felt that I had to speak up for 3rd Street because this community needs us here.”

Collins is now a psychology student at San Francisco City College and is determined to work in Bayview Hunters Point.

“3rd Street has given me the strength to make a change and improve my community,” she said. “My work with the Youth Action Board provides a chance for me to talk to kids about 3rd Street, to share about the workshops and the fact that this is a group of people who want to see them succeed.”

Even though HealthStars officially kicked off on June 20, the program and its workshops are open and available to anyone. The program will end July 29.

While participants are given the incentive with prizes such as Jamba Juice gift cards, amusement park tickets, dinner downtown and the iPod raffle, Sheriff emphasizes that HealthStars is not a competition.

“This is an opportunity for young people to set roots in the center and accomplish personal goals,” she said.

Make this summer healthy and happy

Here are some suggestions for teens to make summer 2011 healthy and happy as well as establish positive habits.

Healthy Body

Get an STD check

Compete in a Wii Tournament

Go outside and start walking with your friends

Healthy Mind

If you’re stressed or having trouble in school, talk to a therapist who won’t judge or criticize you

Start an art journal: if words don’t come easily, draw and sketch your thoughts and feelings on paper

Get your “om” on in a yoga class

Healthy Community

Get involved in an issue that means something to you

Volunteer at a community organization

Participate in a food, clothing or book drive

For more information, call (415) 822-1707, ext. 301, email or visit

You are always welcome to walk in at 5190 Third St., San Francisco, CA 94124.