Lead the Way: Cultivating Leadership in Youth

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.

cultivating-youth-leadershipLa Clínica, one of the largest and most comprehensive community health centers in California, is recruiting and retaining youth leaders to spearhead programs that aim to improve outreach and health education in its community. These programs are a reflection of La Clínica’s view that young people are an integral link to the community and powerful allies in delivering culturally appropriate health care. Successful recruitment strategies rely on health center staff’s familiarity with the school and larger community, as well as their ability to cultivate leadership in youth from different academic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds.

(To learn more about how and where to recruit youth and strategies for engagement, view the Recruiting and Retaining Young Leaders section of our toolkit!)

One of La Clínica’s youth leadership programs, located at Fremont High School in Oakland, California, is the Youth Wellness Advisory Board (YWAB), which includes students and staff. Last year, the YWAB advised the SBHC and high school during an expansive reconstruction of the campus. With adults working as facilitators, the YWAB designed a community survey that asked incoming freshman what they might like to see in an expanded campus. The survey results and YWAB’s recommendations were incorporated in the renovation plans.

In addition to YWAB, La Clínica’s community health education work—known as Casa CHE—empowers youth to take responsibility for their education and play an active role in their community. One of Casa CHE initiatives, Casa en Las Escuelas (CELE), or Home in Schools, focuses on reaching youth in schools by engaging students in important topics such as tobacco control, teen pregnancy prevention, self-esteem, HIV/AIDS, and cultural identity. Through this growth in self-efficacy, youth learn to believe in their “ability to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence the opinions and behaviors of others, and serve as a role model.”1

Recruitment and retention are vital components of a health center’s youth work. Through setting expectations, providing incentives, encouraging youth-driven planning, and connecting young people to each other, young adults are more likely to remain interested and actively involved in youth activities.

To learn more about engaging youth in YOUR health center, we encourage you to explore our toolkit Lead the Way: Engaging Youth in Health Care and share your comments and stories below!

(1) National Alliance for Secondary Education and Transition. Youth Development & Youth Leadership. Available here. Accessed 2015.

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