Trenton Health Team today recognized the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of Mercer County with an excellence award for dramatic progress in youth health and wellness efforts supported by Trinity Health’s Transforming Communities Initiative.

CYO is the only recipient of an excellence award among nearly 10 local early education centers participating in the THT program. The award included a $250 gift certificate for educational supplies. 

“CYO really embraced the goal of promoting healthy behaviors and took actions to make that happen,” said Elena Cromeyer, Trenton Health Team’s TCI program director. “With help from many community health partners, we made progress encouraging and modeling healthy choices–beginning as early as preschool when habits are developed affecting health over a person’s lifetime.” 

Transforming Communities Initiative (TCI) is a multi-year population health effort funded by Trinity Health to address policy, systems, and environmental change and promote healthy behaviors among populations living in low-income communities. Trenton, through Trenton Health Team and St. Francis Medical Center, is one of eight communities selected nationally to lead this effort.

John Soss, CYO program director, credited the THT partnership for moving the agency from awareness to action.  “We all know the health and wellness challenges that face everyone,” he said. “Working with the Trenton Health Team allowed us to come up with an action plan and take the first step towards fighting back those stressors.”

THT has been working with CYO, 920 S Broad St., since February 2018 to develop policies focused on health, exercise and good nutrition among children, their families and CYO teachers and staff. For example, with TCI support, CYO was able to:

  • Create a wellness council including teachers, program directors, food services, a board member, parents and community partners such as THT, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County-Family and Community Health Sciences and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, Isles Inc., St. Francis Medical Center, and Dr. August Leming, a Princeton-based expert in human motivation, behavior change and performance psychology. 
  • Replace old mats serving as protective barriers for those exercising/playing sports in the gym
  • Implement a healthy vending machine policy replacing unhealthy options with healthy ones
  • Partner with Isles, Inc. to plant a school garden
  • Host health and wellness activities for staff, students and parents including a food carnival, healthy nutrition demonstrations and a mindfulness/meditation class
  • Work with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County to negotiate healthier and more culturally appropriate options from CYO’s food vendor
  •  Establish a partnership with Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden, with nursing students receiving hands-on experience leading educational activities and administering health physicals to preschool students

“TCI support is just one of the ways THT is working to improve health policy and wellness in our community,” said Gregory Paulson, THT executive director. “We are proud of CYO’s progress and look forward to more good work ahead.”

The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of Mercer County is a community organization that provides affordable, quality, educational and recreational services at several locations throughout Greater Trenton. 

Photo caption: Trenton Health Team presents an excellence award and gift certificate to the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) of Mercer County for youth health and wellness efforts supported by Trinity Health’s Transforming Communities Initiative. Pictured from left, John Soss (CYO), Katherine Soss Prihoda (Rutgers School of Nursing-Camden), Matthew Broad (THT), Elena Cromeyer (THT/TCI Program Director), Mary Jo Abbondanza (St. Francis Medical Center), Debra Grier (CYO), and Monica Carmichael (Trenton Office of Early Childhood Education).