By Melissa Akers, Program Manager, School-Based Health Alliance
When we launched our inaugural Youth Advisory Council in 2013, I didn’t know what to expect. This was the strongest step the School-Based Health Alliance ever took towards purposefully integrating the youth voice into our organization. After personally speaking with all of the candidates, I knew we were getting a talented, driven council. But I had no idea whether this experiment could succeed.
Simone, Idalia, Jhana, Tyler, and Katelyn brought passion, energy, and commitment to the council from day one. They immediately zeroed in on health issues facing young people—like bullying and mental health—and brought new ideas about how school-based health centers (SBHCs) can play a role in addressing these issues. They connected with other youth councils and organizations to create a new teen suicide prevention center to our website, with a variety of helpful resources.
They gathered in person for the first time in Washington, DC at the 2013 National School-Based Health Care Convention. Tyler and Jhana dazzled the crowd at our advocacy day rally with personal stories about how school-based health care has made an impact on their lives. Their speeches impressed representatives from the Department of Education so much that the council was invited to meet with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to discuss how SBHCs can be used to encourage enrollment in the health exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act.
In 2014, we challenged the council to have a greater role in the youth track at our annual convention. They were more than ready, and their workshop on building future health care leaders provided both youth and adult participants with incredibly powerful tools for youth engagement and empowerment.
Our inaugural Youth Advisory Council succeeded beyond my expectations. While I’m sad to see them finish, I know that the school-based health care movement is gaining five extraordinary advocates and leaders. I wish them luck as they enroll in college and begin their careers. I’m also excited to introduce our second Youth Advisory Council. The five-member council will officially take over in December, 2014. They are located across the country, and bring a new set of skills and experiences to the council:
- Tobias Rubel (Oregon)
- Cameron Estrada (New Mexico)
- Nicole Carrillo (Nebraska)
- Carmen Jimenez (California)
- Mason Stoltz (Minnesota)
Thank you so much to Simone, Idalia, Jhana, Tyler, and Katelyn for setting the standard for success for our Youth Advisory Council. Everyone here at the School-Based Health Alliance truly appreciates your hard work and dedication. We look forward to welcoming and working with our second council, and we know that the strong foundation you are leaving them will ensure their success.