Lead the Way: Youth Development through Leadership Networks in California

This story comes from the Alliance’s youth engagement toolkit Lead the Way: Engaging Youth in Health Care. Each month, a new reflection from the field will touch on a different component of youth engagement and show how youth are leading the way in health awareness and promotion.

Y2Y 2015 Northern California Conference

The California School-Based Health Alliance is expanding the reach of student health organizations in their state through the Youth to Youth (Y2Y) Network, which connects students across the state to support their efforts to improve school-based and community-based health centers. Youth leadership networks such as Y2Y unite students with other advocates that are doing similar work to provide fresh perspectives. These networks allow youth to share their school-based and local activities, best practices, and collective encouragement towards their goal of improving adolescent health.

Youth networks also provide a strong base when pursuing advocacy mobilization by facilitating the organization of youth in local, state, and national policy arenas. Since its launch in 2010, the Y2Y network has worked on a variety of school-based and local health initiatives, including community-based research projects, awareness campaigns, and workshops for meetings and conferences. This type of meaningful peer-interaction can boost young people’s ownership and familiarity with programs both within and outside their school while encouraging ongoing skill development.

(To learn about different avenues for convening youth leaders in your state, view the ‘Youth Leadership Networks’ section of our toolkit!)

In addition to providing state-level mentorship for Y2Y local programs, the California School-Based Health Alliance has hosted four statewide Y2Y Conferences. Conferences allow adults and youth to exchange materials on their youth programs, collaborate with other youth programs to lead workshops or discussions on youth engagement, and encourage youth leaders to engage with conference attendees. The 2015 Y2Y Conferences in northern and southern California brought together more than 250 youth to engage with public health professionals and participate in workshops on public speaking, obesity prevention, healthy living, and health advocacy. The Y2Y Network has proven to be a useful tool for grassroots organizing and facilitating deeper connections with the youth-led school health field and their associated SBHCs and community partners.

To advance YOUR knowledge and skills around engaging youth in your health center and community, we encourage you to explore our toolkit Lead the Way: Engaging Youth in Health Care and share your comments and stories below!

Youth Engagement Toolkit

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