The 2023 ‘Be the Change’ Youth Training Program in Washington, D.C., engaged youth from across the country with a passion for school-based health care and community leadership.
Youth attended plenaries and workshops and participated in activities to better understand various health-related topics. Topics ranged from vaping and sexual education to peer education and quality improvement basics. Each session was carefully curated with youth speakers and real-life success stories, allowing youth to gain valuable insights and knowledge. The ‘Pizza Protection Parties’ session taught participants how to lead a sexual and reproductive health workshop for their peers. The ‘MAP-IT’ presentation walked youth through quality improvement projects from start to finish. The presenters had participants use ideas for improvement from their schools and communities to take home and implement once the week had wrapped up.
‘Be the Change’ youth leaders collaborated and brainstormed throughout the conference, working as a team. Witnessing young people put their minds together to make significant impacts was powerful. As participants shared and connected about the various issues they faced at home, they quickly realized, despite their differences, how much their communities had in common. “I thought it was really cool how we are all coming from different places, different backgrounds, but we’re all addressing the same issues.” – 2023 Participant
As the program drew to a close, participants expressed a wide range of emotions – joy for the connections they made, sadness for leaving too soon, and excitement for the future. The conference equipped youth with the knowledge, skills, and network necessary to continue their work as change agents in their schools and communities. “A lot of you are leaders in your schools that are working towards really amazing things, and it was cool that you were able to share what you’re doing and it gave me really good ideas [to take home].” – 2023 Participant
The lessons youth participants learned at ‘Be the Change’ will continue to fuel their passion for school-based health care and leadership so they can create a brighter, healthier, and more compassionate world for everyone.