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Student Youth Councils Empower Students to Use Their Voice

Colorado youth program is building leadership skills and promoting community health

by Analeeza Sanchez, Communications Intern, Kaiser Permanente

“I think that when young people are involved in current, real-world situations, it enables us to passionately interact with the world and create a better future,” said Vanessa, a high school senior and Student Youth Advisory Council member.

When Kaiser Permanente’s Arts Integrated Resources, based in Colorado, started youth engagement programs in 2007, the team wanted to develop young leaders who would serve as catalysts for change and as allies for Kaiser Permanente’s community health work.

These programs helped create a partnership in which young leaders and experts from schools, cities and state organizations are working side by side to create educational resources and pioneer programs that promote community health.

One of the many successful youth engagement programs is the Student Youth Advisory Council — a district-wide council made up of high school students who create health resources and design campaigns for students of the entire district.

Giving students a voice in community health advocacy

Vanessa says her experience with the Student Youth Advisory Council helped her connect with her peers and the community.

“Working on the youth council has allowed me to bring awareness to social topics, be an advocate, and most importantly be able to empower teens, all within my community,” she said.

Being able to discuss community issues in a leadership position empowers students to use their voice to enact change within their community. An environment that is welcoming of diversity is the key to the success of student youth advisory councils.

“We serve as a fresh lens on how certain issues can be addressed and resolved,” said Vanessa. “Diversity initiates imaginative viewpoints in group discussions.”

Resources to support youth councils

The Arts Integrated Resources team, along with the Colorado Education Initiative, Jeffco Public Schools and the Merino Rams, created a toolkit to provide a how-to guide for starting a youth advisory council with the tools and resources needed to achieve success. The toolkit includes getting started, building the team, calling council meetings, completing projects, creating sustainability — and most importantly, making the process fun.

Check out the guide and more information about Kaiser Permanente’s Colorado Arts Integrated Resources. There are also tips and resources for schools that want to create engagement programs beyond youth councils.

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