Corrales resident and 4-H member Savannah McSween, far left, poses with fellow 4-H’ers during a trip to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., last month. (Courtesy of Sandoval County Extension Office)

Four days at a healthy-living conference near Washington, D.C., have inspired a Corrales 4-H’er to keep educating other youth about mental health and substance abuse.

Savannah McSween, a Corralitos 4-H Club member and Cibola High School junior, participated in the National 4-H Summit for Healthy Living on April 21-24 in Bethesda, Md.

“What I took from it was being able to see what kind of impacts other states are having,” she said.

She believes she can also make a difference by continuing with the outreach she’s already doing on mental health and drug abuse.

She’s served as a 4-H Healthy Living Ambassador since eighth grade. Her focus on the work came from “seeing the impact on kids seeing that they have people they can talk to.” McSween said one of her friends had mental-health issues and she sees a lot of New Mexico youth struggling with it.

She’s given presentations about mental health and substance abuse awareness to other youth and participated in a smaller healthy living summit for 4-H seniors, those ages 14-19, in Glorieta. She hopes to step up her work.

McSween said her focus would be 4-H, but she’d also like to present in middle and high schools. Her goal would be to educate students about mental health, help reduce problems in that area “and just bring a more positive side to this world with all the stuff we’ve been going through recently,” she said.

The summit taught her new techniques, and she’d like to share resources other students can take home and reflect on, as well as bring in guest speakers. She also wants to let students know schools have people they can talk to for mental health support.

“The thing I really brought back from the summit is getting the people (to know) their mental health issues can be helped,” McSween said.

She hopes to teach her fellow 4-H’ers to help spread those messages and possibly hold a state 4-H healthy living summit.

As for the national summit, McSween said it included workshops on drug and alcohol awareness, mental health and physical activity. She had the opportunity to try “glow yoga,” doing yoga in a room lit with a black light and with glowing tape on the floor.

Groups of 4-H’ers also did poverty simulations, in which they had to figure out how to use resources to get a family meal within an allotted amount of money with a particular number of children. McSween said the simulation showed how some people have to struggle to find food for their families.

Participants visited Smithsonian museums and used a smart phone app for a healthy-living themed scavenger hunt there. They also took a night tour of Washington, D.C., monuments.

“What led me to decide to go to the summit was just knowing the resources I can bring back to make a positive impact on my 4-H community,” McSween said, adding that it was also a chance to be a leader.