How Young People Benefit as Recipients and Leaders

By Komal Oza, member of the Youth Advisory Council

A fruitful partnership between adults and youth is the essence of youth development, so using this strategy to create a greater impact makes a lot of sense. However, putting such partnerships into action requires deliberate effort on the part of both adults and young people. The School-Based Health Alliance believes that youth development is an essential, core component for health centers to reach their fullest potential—and the Alliance is focused on helping school-based health centers (SBHCs) across the country implement youth involvement into their programs.

Mental health, substance abuse, and reproductive health planning… these are just a few of the issues that are coming to the forefront in schools nationwide and that will require more research into young people’s needs and interests. Having youth involved can bring substantial benefits to an SBHC that’s looking to foster effective peer-to-peer outreach in their school.

At my first National School-Based Health Care Convention in June 2017, I participated in workshops that gave young people the opportunity to truly use their creative minds for a better tomorrow. We shared our views on current health issues with one another and were able to take that dialogue back to our own school based health centers as well as our peers. Participants also had the chance to apply the strategies they learned in the workshops to craft potential solutions and improvements to the health issues they saw in their SBHCs, schools, and communities. The critical thinking skills these young people used while forming such innovative ideas inspired me to think about how outreach in my own SBHC could be more effective by relaying information from peer to peer.

This is my first year working with the Youth Advisory Council (YAC), and my experience so far has allowed me to explore the School-Based Health Alliance’s strategies for successful youth development. As the council’s secretary, I’m able to study the ideas that each of my fellow YAC members bring to the table and see the value of their contributions. In addition, I’ve discovered that I can accomplish more when I work with a team to help young people reach their fullest potential.

After working with the YAC as well as other organizations such as Reach Out for their Youth Policy Initiative Project in its work to prevent substance abuse in teens, I’ve realized that youth engagement affords SBHCs consistent opportunities to reflect on their work and recognize which areas of their strategies they should improve so that they reach the widest possible audience with their desired message. As a youth participant and representative in the field of school-based health care, I’ve been fortunate to have various opportunities to soak up knowledge and develop new skills from my peers.

I look forward to continuing to work with the Youth Advisory Council and the School-Based Health Alliance to both improve policies in school-based health centers and improve the health of children across the nation—helping them overcome any obstacles that stand in the way of their ambitions. I’ve fostered a deep sense of self-pride and fulfillment by being able to make such a meaningful difference in my community.


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