Leveraging the Power of Young People

By Simone Bernstein

Simone Bernstein at Meeting wSecretary of Education Arne DuncanCommunicating with young people helps build partnerships and raise awareness for all that you do in a school-based health center (SBHC). In the upcoming school year, the School-Based Health Alliance Youth Advisory Council (YAC) challenges SBHCs to receive input from young people. There are many ways to integrate youth into the decision-making process. Below are a few ideas we discussed at the 2014 convention:

  1. Gather a group of youth and start a SBHC Youth Council at your school. Get advice from this group to help organize health and wellness activities.
  2. Service-learning and volunteering are key to combining classroom learning with hands-on problem solving in the community. Service-learning projects include investigation, planning and preparation, implementing the service activity, reflection, and demonstration/celebration. Examples of projects include launching a bicycle helmet awareness and safe riding techniques seminar, nutrition demonstrations to encourage youth to bring healthy lunches, building a school garden and donating the produce to a local food bank, or encouraging students who like to dance to offer free afterschool classes. Through our work on the YAC, we are working on a project to encourage mental illness awareness.
  3. Use social media to expand your work and spread the word about projects within an SBHC. More than 73 percent of young people use social media (Pew Internet, 2009). Encourage youth to post on social media about your SBHC. Encourage them to tell great stories and get their peers engaged. To keep track of other young people working on health care initiatives, follow @sbhayac on Twitter to learn about programming events nationwide.
  4. The voice of young people is a very important tool! Work with youth to advocate for SBHCs. Help youth set-up a time to meet with local leaders to share their personal experiences as an advocate for school-based healthcare.
  5. Encourage young leaders in your network to apply for the School-Based Health Alliance’s YAC. This is an amazing opportunity to raise the visibility and importance of school-based health centers nationwide.

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