A youth participant speaks during the Youth2Youth summit in Madera. (Photo courtesy California School-Based Health Alliance)
Youth-organized summit focuses on student health advocacy
January 22, 2024
The California School-Based Health Alliance hosted 115 high school students from across the state at the Madera County Superintendent of Schools auditorium on Nov. 17, 2023, for Advocating for a Brighter Future — a Youth 2 Youth (Y2Y) convening created by youth for youth.
Students gathered to share strategies they have learned about advocating for restorative school and public policies on substance use, particularly in communities that have been harmed by the War on Drugs. Many who attended participate in youth advisory boards and share information about school-based health and wellness center programs and services with the student body at their campus.
Students from Fresno, Stanislaus, San Bernardino, Ventura, Los Angeles and Contra Costa counties presented to youth participants on skills they have learned as peer educators on substance use prevention, advocates for substance use policies not based on punitive measures, peer counselors to improve student mental health, and participatory action researchers focused on school, local and state policies impacting young people.
School staff attended to learn with other adults about peer-to-peer behavioral health support opportunities across the state, and policies to address substance use and adolescent health and well-being.
Sen. Anna Caballero, who represents Fresno and Merced counties in Sacramento, attended a session on Using Youth Participatory Action Research to Inform Substance Use Policy, where young people spotlighted the importance of youth leadership and participation in creating effective public policies to reduce substance use. Caballero thanked the students for being advocates for their communities.
The event was co-organized by CSHA’s Youth Board and staff and included entertainment by DJ JJ Mendez; a networking session where attendees learned about each other; fun interactive group and individual “brain break” activities; and quizzes and games with raffle prizes. Spoken word poet and community organizer Alexandria Benn also addressed students and shared her poems about resilience and healing.
The next Y2Y will be in Southern California in the fall of 2024. CSHA receives support from Elevate Youth California and the California Department of Education’s Tobacco Use Prevention and Education Program for this event and other programs supporting youth advocating for restorative substance use policies around the state.
The Youth2Youth summit in Madera. (Photo courtesy California School-Based Health Alliance)