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Youth-Driven Solutions (Part 1 of 4)

Catherine is a senior communications professional helping social change organizations tell their story in powerful ways. She has expertise in public health, environmental stewardship, philanthropy and education. Follow her on Twitter @CatBrozena

Successes Learned from Youth Engagement Efforts in Colorado

Age is foolish and forgetful when it underestimates youth.

~ J.K. Rowling

The value and power of youth to affect positive change in their schools and communities has often been underestimated. Many times, adults mistakenly see youth as problems to be fixed rather than allies in championing a thriving school or healthy community. The truth is, there is tremendous power in allowing the voice of youth to be a catalyst for change.

That truth is made real through a series of youth engagement efforts currently playing out in Colorado, under the guidance and facilitation of professional actors/educators from Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre Program.

Working in collaboration with youth organizations and experts from school, city and state health organizations, Colorado’s ETP provides student youth with opportunities to be educators, leaders and advocates for healthy practices in their schools and communities. Students use the power of theatre and media to create powerful videos and plays that identify health barriers in their schools and communities and the challenges that they face as young people growing up in these environments. Out of these efforts, youth collaboratives have been established to address issues ranging from hunger and nutrition to drug, alcohol and tobacco use. They develop youth-driven, creative solutions to these problems.

Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools believes that youth can be strong influencers of their school environment and in affecting school policy and practice changes. When youth, parents and school leaders work side-by-side to make decisions about school wellness, the result is increased effectiveness and empowerment in developing, prioritizing and implementing activities that create healthy school environments.

The adult community has discovered an invaluable resource in the world around them through the voice that inhabits it…Youth voice is power, youth voice is action, and youth voice is change. I encourage all members of the Colorado community to start speaking, start sharing, and start connecting. It’s a powerful conversation.

~ Alysh, age 17

In future series, we’ll be digging in to some of the specific successes that these youth engagement efforts have accomplished. We’ll learn about the power of community health action teams who have helped to drive in statewide policy initiatives, and student health advisory councils that use arts, multimedia to advance health agendas and raise awareness about health issues in schools. Stay tuned!

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You can read about many of Colorado’s youth accomplishments from their own voices in the For Youth, By Youth blog.

To learn more about Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Educational Theatre Programs and get a taste for their youth engagement efforts, visit


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