Youth Take the Lead in Championing SBHCs

Every February, schools and communities come together nationwide to celebrate the success and contributions of school-based health centers (SBHCs) during National School-Based Health Care Awareness Month.

Each state organizes different advocacy activities to improve general or specific health issues affecting their young people. These campaigns, events, and student mobilizations raise awareness of the integral partnership that exists between communities, schools, and SBHCs and demonstrate how their collaborative efforts can improve health outcomes for children and adolescents. The following highlights come from the members of the School-Based Health Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC) as well as state affiliate organizations from across the country.

Nebraska YAC Member Nicole Carrillo:

Omaha Northwest High School students took an interactive approach to awareness month that allowed adolescents to work for and with their SBHC. The month began with a student-led effort to thank SBHC staff by placing encouraging posters around the school. As Valentine’s Day approached, the SBHC promoted an STD/STI awareness campaign. Staff and students promoted healthy relationship building through joint-partner testing in their very own SBHC and rewarded singles and participating couples with a gift for themselves or their Valentine!

Louisiana YAC Member Nate Batiste:

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a health educator from Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center partnered with my local SBHC to make ‘Fitness Friday’ a reality for students and staff. ‘Fitness Friday’ brought the entire school together for one hour of physical activity each week. Mr. Brumfield facilitated exercises such as jump rope, balance bowl, football, and agility ladders. Students also promoted ‘Fitness Friday’ throughout February with educational materials on nutrition and available produce in the community. Students celebrated the success of ‘Fitness Friday’ at a closing event that included music and interactive surveys and games.

California YAC Member Anna Casalme:

Fanna casalmeamily Fun Night is a community health fair held each year thanks to the collaborative efforts of PIH Health, Healthy Los Nietos, the City of Santa Fe Springs, Los Nietos School District, and Little Lake City School District. This year, I manned the ‘Rethink Your Drink’ table where I asked kids, “Which drink do you think has the most sugar?” I then assisted the children with measuring out the spoons of sugar in each of their favorite sweetened beverages, and I watched as their faces turned from shocked to horrified! This visible demonstration allowed me to speak with the children and their families about healthy alternatives and other methods for combating childhood obesity at home and in school.

New Mexico YAC Member Cameron Estrada:

Plans for awareness month came to a screeching halt when a bill was introduced that threatened funding for six New Mexico SBHCs New Mexico. I was highly involved with my local SBHC and founded an advocacy group in my high school called ‘Impact Teens,’ which speaks to freshman classes about the services offered at the health center. I put my networking skills to the test and began mobilizing efforts to resist the bill from every angle, including enlisting the assistance of the School-Based Health Alliance and state affiliate organizations and writing letters to Senators and House Representatives. I asked my fellow students to write letters during lunch to describe their experiences with the SBHC and how the health services improved their quality of life. My fellow students claimed that the center helped them overcome abuse, depression, and mental illnesses that may have gone unnoticed. Many of our undocumented students could not receive necessary health care without our centers. These students’ compelling stories and efforts to save their SBHC are inspiring, and we are crossing our fingers for our state legislature’s continued support.

Oregon School-Based Health Alliance:

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The Oregon School-Based Health Alliance worked with their Statewide Youth Action Council (SYAC) to empower youth across the state to advocate for their own health care. On February 9, 118 students from 20 Oregon schools gathered in Salem for Awareness Day. Attendees spent the morning learning how a bill becomes a law and how powerful storytelling can be. Not only did they learn about advocacy, they spent the afternoon putting what the lessons into practice, conducting 25 legislative visits at the State Capitol Building. Haylee Williams, a current member of SYAC, highlighted the importance of Awareness Day, saying, “[It] gives us a chance to influence the things that we care about. It is great for both students and our state representatives.”

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