June is Men's Health Month, a time when we emphasize the significance of annual physicals and screenings. However, it's crucial to remember that health encompasses more than just the physical aspect. Strong health often originates from a positive mindset and outlook.
This month, we are excited to shine a spotlight on the remarkable efforts of Centra’s community partner, IRON Lives–an organization that is focused on championing a positive mindset and outlook among young men and women across central Virginia. Originally established as a mentoring program for young men in 2009, IRON Lives was initiated by Dr. Derrick Brown as an afterschool gathering. At that time, Dr. Brown, a teacher at Amherst County High School, invited several male students to the inaugural meeting, asking them, "Would you like to become a better man?"
Fourteen years since that first meeting, IRON Lives has grown into a nonprofit with embedded programming in schools and community organizations. In an effort to decrease the negative pressures and increase the number of positive opportunities for students, Dr. Brown founded IRON which stands for “I am responsible for overcoming negativity,” and is based on the idea that iron sharpens iron. His belief was that the only way we can develop a contagious culture of positivity is if we are focused on making a difference in the lives of others.
Today, IRON Lives’ programming is focused on teenage students who live in Amherst, Lynchburg, Bedford and Campbell County. While they have multiple programs, the over-arching principle of every IRON Lives initiative is character development and building meaningful intergenerational connections.
IRON Lives is also active in collaborating with other community organizations in order to foster collaboration and expand the positive reach of their programs. One such collaborative project is the Swim to Work Program being offered in partnership with the YMCA of Central Virginia and Lynchburg City Schools. This program addresses a present lifeguard shortage while teaching young adults how to swim, administer first aid, demonstrate leadership and providing them with gainful employment after they graduate.
The program’s first cohort of nine students will be finishing up their training and taking their certification tests in mid-June. IRON Lives current Executive Director, Dr. Allison Jordan shared that the ten students who have gone through the program have become a community for one another over the course of their training. Encouraging one another to be brave and step out of their own comfort zones as they’ve gone through the program.
Centra is proud to support IRON Lives’ work in our community through sponsorship of the organization’s annual 5k. These funds have enabled IRON Lives to finance stipends and supplies so that their youth programming and the positive impact that they are having on teens can continue year-round.
Dr. Jordan summarized well the importance of the work that IRON Lives is actively doing across central Virginia stating, “Teenagers are worth it because they’re already leaders. If children are our future, these teenagers are our right now.”