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Youth Driven Solutions (part 3 of 4)

Caitlin Cobb is a Communications Consultant for Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit and a regular contributor to the Thriving Schools blog.
caitlin.cobb@kp.org

Our colleagues in the Kaiser Permanente Colorado region continue to share stories of how Colorado youth are working to improve their communities through health initiatives. Here is part three of the series.

Addressing Food Insecurities, the Community Health Action Team in Colorado Improves Lives of Youth in Their Communities

When the school bell rings, students should be ready to learn. Unfortunately, this is not always the case if, for example, a student missed breakfast and their mind is preoccupied with hunger.

Breakfast is the number-one necessary school supply for students to succeed. However, in Colorado, one in five children struggle with hunger. To address this, and other disparities, the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Educational Theatre team developed the Community Health Action Team (CHAT), engaging young people to create change in their community, knowing that this topic would be important to them.

Members of CHAT are not comic book superheroes; they are real, live student ambassadors driving statewide policy initiatives for positive change in the community. These student leaders are aware of the challenges that face students and young adults in Colorado, and they are determined to put their minds together and ultimately bring about change.

For example, to address issues of hunger in their school communities, the Community Health Action Teams across Colorado have partnered with Hunger Free Colorado to raise awareness and make a statewide policy change.

Alysh Lynch and Trevor Sanders Colorado students, age 17, testified on behalf of Hunger Free Colorado at the state capitol in favor of a bill that would provide breakfast to Colorado school children. They both shared their personal experiences of going to school hungry and the effects it had on them. As a result of their testimonies, legislators ultimately favored the breakfast bill.

“As a senior now, I reflect back to my freshman year when I never anticipated being part of a group that worked towards the betterment of my peer’s health on a statewide level. Throughout my high school career, I have witnessed a growing pulse in the complex community I exist in. Several snowballs come to mind when I think about all that I have witnessed firsthand. One of the snowball I am proud to be a part of is the Hunger Free Colorado Team.” Alysh reflected on her experience.

Alysh was absolutely right to be proud. As a result of the students’ hard work, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed the ‘Breakfast After the Bell’ bill on May 15, 2013. As a result, more than 360 Colorado schools offer breakfast to all students, giving more than 80,000 children access to daily food. For some children, meals served in school may be the only food they eat regularly.

In addition to lending their personal stories to influence policy changes, students of CHAT have recently raised awareness about disparities in hunger, nutrition and the benefits of physical activity. They are using educational videos that were created by Kaiser Permanente youth engagement programs at Adams City High School in Commerce City, CO, check them out at:  www.etpcolorado.org/media

Becoming involved in CHAT is an opportunity for high school kids to positively affect change in schools and in the community, while developing life-long skills to help them excel. Testifying at the State Capital was just one unique and powerful experience for these teenagers that set the stage for continued engagement in their community for years to come.

See more student super hero blogs at the For Youth, By Youth blog: https://sites.google.com/site/youthresolute/home

This post was authored by Russell Taylor, Senior Communications Consultant for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado.

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