Youth Leadership Networks

Youth Leadership NetworksYouth leadership networks give health centers and young people the opportunity to collaborate with other individuals and groups that are doing related work and can provide different perspectives. Youth networks facilitate the organization of youth in local, state, and national policy arenas.

Creating Opportunities for Peer Interaction and Training

Just like professional networking, youth networking can lead to sharing skill sets and best practices and identifying mentors. Working with youth to identify their interests and skills will help prioritize relationship building and network targeting. For example, if your youth advisory council (YAC) specializes in peer-to-peer nutrition education, consider finding opportunities for youth to share their experiences and knowledge with other start-up peer programs. This type of peer interaction will not only boost the young people’s ownership of their program, it will also maintain an ethic of ongoing skills development, and function as an incentive to stay involved.

“The Health Ambassadors Program helped me mold what I wanted to see in my career.”

– Adriana Ortiz, Health Program Coordinator, Corazón Community

Convening Youth Leaders

Before planning to convene young leaders, consider the following:

  • Who’s who and what’s where? Are there other health centers in the city, county, or region that have youth engagement programs? What are the local youth-serving organizations? What resources do other community groups provide? Are there any available youth-friendly or youth-led training in the area? Is there an upcoming event that would offer an opportunity for your youth to network with other local youth?
  • Brainstorming objectives and outcomes. Ask youth what the overarching goals and outcomes should be for their meeting. Will they gain new skills? Will they promote their program or upcoming event? Will they make new friends or grow their network? Do they have plans for future collaboration with other groups?
  • Logistics and available resources. Who will host the meeting? Can the youth organize an in-person, phone, or virtual meeting? Do all the parties involved have the appropriate technology to participate? What are the associated venue and transportation logistics? Will refreshments be provided (strongly recommended)? Are there organizations or businesses in the community that could provide in-kind donations, such as food, space, and travel vouchers?

Cooperative adult allies are crucial to a successful youth convention. Depending on the age range and needs of a group, adults may need to fine-tune logistics. Adults should assist where young people’s resources may be lacking, for instance with the convening venue, meeting supplies, refreshments, and/or particularly with adult coordinator-to-coordinator correspondence.

Conferences

Conferences can be an appropriate venue to share the breadth of youth engagement work. At conferences, for example, adults and young people can exchange materials on their youth programs, collaborate with other youth programs to lead workshops or discussions on youth engagement, and encourage youth leaders to interact with conference attendees. In addition to the networking and program recognition, conferences can offer skill-building opportunities for youth.

State-Level Mentorship for Local Programs

Statewide school and community health associations can play a critical role in facilitating partnerships among youth engagement programs. Since state associations are likely to know where youth engagement programs are, they can lead or support youth leadership networks. Furthermore, statewide conferences and meetings are excellent opportunities for youth leaders to come together and give young people the chance to share their successes, resources, and information with one another.

Next Section: Cultivating Community Support
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