‘Be the Change’ Youth Training Program: #Success

This story comes from Gianna Forlizzi, blogger for the School-Based Health Alliance’s Youth Advisory Council. Every other month, as part of the “Youth Voices” blog series, Gianna will share updates from the Youth Advisory Council, stories of youth development at the Alliance, and stories from young people throughout the school-based health care field. The following highlights reflect on the youth training program at the 2017 annual convention.

The 2017 National School-Based Health Care Convention was one for the books. By books, I do mean record books. The convention, which took place in scenic Long Beach, CA, brought in more than 950 convention-goers. That’s the largest gathering of school-based health care professionals to attend any of our conferences (so far!). With so many factors that made the convention great, it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly drew in so many people this year. What is certain is that we are all working towards a common goal: healthy students and healthy communities.

One of the most exciting aspects of this year’s convention was the ‘Be the Change’ Youth Training Program, which welcomed 35 young people from across the country to participate in training workshops and network with fellow champions of school-based health. The various workshops included sessions on design thinking, healthy relationships, forum theater, and a health care simulation. Each session included youth development and engagement activities to get students kinesthetically engaged, as well as collaborate with their peers to problem-solve and learn. I’d like to highlight some of my favorite workshops and activities that the ‘Be the Change’ program offered.

Design thinking, a method developed primarily by architectural designers to creatively problem-solve, is normally taught in a course over a series of sessions. In just over three hours, Anna Casalme, a board member of the School-Based Health Alliance, was able to teach the youth about design thinking and challenge groups to apply the principals of inspiration, ideation, and implementation to create a solution that might relieve student stress. After lots of sticky noting, PowerPoint and poster creating, and some friendly competition, the students proposed solutions that were innovative, original, and workable.

 

The winning team created an app called StudenTrac that helps students manage their time and keep in contact with their teachers and professors about their schedule. The students’ collaboration and use of design thinking won them Starbucks gift cards (and, of course, very useful knowledge on using design thinking for real-world solutions).

The #RelationshipGoals workshop educated students on what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like, and what to do about them. The workshop, led by members of the Youth Advisory Council, demonstrated what behaviors and actions are normal and abnormal in several types of relationships. One of the activities during the workshop helped the youth “match up” to those in the room who would either benefit or hinder their fictional characters based on the background information given about each role they played. This activity demonstrated the relevance of observing what characteristics of a friend, parent, or significant other help you to improve your life and which ones impede you.

My personal favorite of the youth workshops, as pictured above, was the Health Care Simulation. This workshop was focused on placing the youth in charge of their own health care in groups as “families,” working to navigate their plans to handle what health care obstacles they encountered. These obstacles were incredibly realistic and eye-opening for participants who had never experienced these issues. Some issues the families encountered included: lack of insurance coverage, financial limitations, language barriers, and long waiting times at health facilities. For each tactical and efficient decision the families made, they were rewarded with a piece of uncooked spaghetti, a marshmallow, or a paper plate. The ultimate goal was to obtain many materials and eventually use them to create a stable structure. This demonstrated that the more you have, the more you are able to have a strong foundation. This activity did an exceptional job displaying the trials and tribulations of being healthy.

 

Our friends from Balboa High School in San Francisco, CA, got the youth engaged physically and emotionally through a workshop on Forum Theater. Something I had never heard of prior to the workshop, Forum Theater encourages the audience to think and act on particular situations. The youth participants watched a video which centered around an undocumented student attempting to apply for college without support from her family or the collegiate system as a whole. After finding out she was ineligible for a scholarship because of her legal status, a close friend of hers received the scholarship without nearly as many obstacles. The youth were invited to recreate the situation, from the perspectives of the past, present, or future, and what factors may have made a difference in the outcome or what could be changed in the future. This activity fostered creative collaboration with others to form a cohesive plot-line, and shed light on situations that are not often discussed.

Overall, participants of the ‘Be the Change’ Youth Training Program were able to leave the convention with a smorgasbord of information, experience in useful and creative activities, and hopefully a reinforced passion for creating and sustaining healthy communities. My hopes for next year’s convention are to see some familiar and unfamiliar faces, hear insightful questions and important answers, and continue to learn about all the incredible work being done by young people from coast to coast. In the meantime, “think globally, act locally.”

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