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Youth-Driven Solutions (part 4 of 4)

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 four (the final part) of the series.

Student Health Advisory Council Aims to Address Growing Health Needs in Jeffco Public Schools

“Our focus is on children and the things that can put them on the path to good jobs and fulfilling lives.” This is the philosophy of Jeffco Public Schools, the second largest school district in Colorado, made up of over 80,000 kids. As a result of dedication to this goal, they’ve attained local, state and national academic achievements.

The Kaiser Permanente Educational Theatre Programs has teamed up with Healthy Schools Colorado to improve programs and policies within the school district that impact student health, safety and well-being. Through this dynamic partnership, the Student Health Advisory Council (SHAC) was born.

From left: Olivia Klutse, Sammy Steele and Emily O'Winter
From left: Olivia Klutse, Sammy Steele and Emily O’Winter

“The best way to make an impact on kids is through their peers,” said Emily O’Winters, healthy schools coordinator. “SHAC is a team of seventeen youth leaders working in collaboration.”

In 2011, SHAC issued a survey to 1,500 high school students to determine the greatest health needs in Jeffco Public Schools. At that time they discovered that tobacco, alcohol and other drugs were an urgent concern. The SHAC council members began brainstorming and engaging health and education experts from across their district to think of ways that they could immediately influence and help their peers with this issue. As a first step, the team decided to raise awareness about alcohol, tobacco and drug use through a video titled “Just Say Know, Real Facts for Real Teens.” This film is an educational resource for teachers to spark classroom conversations.

Recently, SHAC created four interactive peer-to-peer activities that help young adults explore the skills needed to be an effective advocate for healthy choices. This resource is especially important now that the state of Colorado has legalized the recreational and medicinal uses of marijuana. The peer-to-peer activities were piloted in the Spring of 2014 and will be used districtwide this year and next. Statewide agencies, including the governor’s office, have expressed an interest in using SHAC’s film.

Following the creation of these activities, SHAC members participated in Tobacco Day at the state capitol. Members met with state representatives and senators to discuss the increase in tobacco use among young adults, especially with the rise of new vapor products such as e-cigarettes, e-liquids and e-juices. This determined advocacy exemplifies how a youth voice, partnered with adult experts, can make a difference in the lives and communities of young adults.

For more information about SHAC’s commitment to student health, take a look at their video, We Are Health: Students of Jeffco Public Schools, or the Ted Talk by SHAC member Mae Thompson.

You can also always read about the various activities SHAC is involved with on their facebook page.

This post was authored by Russell Taylor, Senior Communications Consultant and Samuel Wood, Special Project Coordinator, Youth Engagement, from Kaiser Permanente in Colorado.

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