Behind the Scenes of AMCHP 2024: Meet Sedona Allen Moreno-Castelan
December 13, 2023

Sedona Allen Moreno-Castelan is a healer and a warrior. She draws inspiration from her past experiences of adversity to fight for justice. Born and raised in Denver, Sedona is deeply connected to the local ecosystems and communities. Sedona is a Mother to her daughter Yaretzi. She graduated from Naropa University in May 2021 with her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with minors in Peace Studies and Yoga. She has over eight years of Public Health and community organizing experience where she uplifts authentic youth engagement and empowerment. Sedona is currently a Health Programs Specialist at the Public Health Institute at Denver Health, and facilitates EYE For Prevention. She is passionate about cultivating healing and liberating spaces for people to connect to each other, the Earth, and their own divine purpose. Sedona strives to help heal 7 generations back and 7 generations forward.

Instagram: @RevolutionarySedona   |     Facebook: Sedona Moreno-Castelan


Sedona serves as a member of the AMCHP Conference Planning Committee. We invited her to share her thoughts to give participants a chance to learn more about her, the work she contributes to the committee, and the importance of this conference from the perspective of a youth/young adult leader.


Please describe your role on the AMCHP Annual Conference Planning Committee.

“Liberated relationships are one of the ways we actually create abundant justice, the understanding that there is enough attention, care, resource, and connection for all of us to access belonging, to be in our dignity, and to be safe in community.” – adrienne maree brown

This quote truly highlights my purpose in serving on the AMCHP Annual Conference Planning Committee. My role is to help cultivate liberated relationships. I am a connector. I find joy in bringing people together and uplifting different people’s strengths and talents in meaningful ways. Coming together for the annual conference is a sacred and meaningful experience, and I absolutely want to ensure it is a space of belonging for people. As a young Mother and someone who is passionate about authentic youth engagement, it is also my role to ensure we are integrating and uplifting youth voices in this conference. One way we are doing that is through our Youth & Young Adult Sub-Committee which I am helping to lead alongside an EYE For Prevention Youth Leader, Aariyah Johnson.

Given your work as a youth and young adult leader, what motivated you to join this planning committee?

I want to give a huge shout-out to Iliana White, she first got me connected to the AMCHP Conference. I was a Youth Advisor working on the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Team at the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE). Iliana has always been an incredible advocate for youth engagement and youth voice. I am forever grateful for our connection and the opportunities she supported me in achieving. I will never forget the AMCHP Conference back in 2019 when it was held in San Antonio, Texas. I had such an incredible time presenting a skills-building workshop alongside other youth from different states, as well as learning and engaging with others throughout the conference. I was motivated to stay engaged because I recognized the value of having young people present in these spaces.

After working as a Youth Advisor for over three years at CDPHE, I was at a point in my journey when I was graduating with my Bachelor’s degree from Naropa University in 2021, and looking for the next step in my career with many years of Public Health experience under my belt. A few weeks prior to graduation, I discovered I was pregnant with my first daughter. This brought a whole new passion and deep-rooted connection to MCH. During the summer of 2020-2021, I got very engaged in birth justice work and supporting the Future Ancestors Collective, which provided birthing support to BIPOC families for free. I learned from some incredible midwives and doulas about birth and was inspired to continue this work in different ways. In August 2021 I was hired as a Health Programs Specialist for the Public Health Institute at Denver Health, truly coming full circle because this is where I first started my employment as a Youth Advisor at only 16 years old after going down a negative path, being expelled from school, and swimming upstream from the school to prison pipeline. Resilience and determination had blossomed from the trauma and adversities I had faced. I am inspired to be the change I want to see in my community.

How do you think conference participants, especially youth, can successfully and meaningfully engage at AMCHP 2024?

This is something we are talking a lot about and being intentional about. The Youth & Young Adult sub-committee is planning a youth gathering event, identifying ways to highlight and promote youth-led sessions, and finding meaningful ways for people to network, connect, and meet each other. We are also thinking about the physical conference space, and how we can cultivate engaging and healing spaces in the conference for people to engage with outside of sessions. Being on the “Bright Side of the Bay” we are teaming up with local MCH professionals and have expanded our conference planning committee to find ways to be immersed in the local experience of Oakland. This will be another way to meaningfully engage people in this community and bring everyone together in fun and innovative ways!

How does this year’s theme “Partnering with Purpose” align with your personal mission and the work that you do?

I absolutely love this theme, because this is what I do in all aspects of my life! Majoring in Environmental Science I often view things from an environmentalist perspective, and I know that ecosystems thrive and are more resilient when there is biodiversity. The same is true for our workplaces, communities, and lives… the more authentic diversity we have the more we can all contribute our unique strengths while learning and growing alongside others. There is power in partnering with purpose. Every one of us doing this work brings our own perspectives, experiences, and strengths; when we come together that is when we truly hold collective power. One of my most important personal missions is to bring people together with love and solidarity. I do this through my work with EYE For Prevention, a coalition made up of passionate young leaders ages 13-24. We believe that in order to truly impact youth substance misuse in our community, we must engage youth with lived experience in a trauma-informed approach to understand the reality youth are facing and what must be done to create better opportunities for our young people. Together we are #StrongerWithout. Follow us on Instagram @EYEforprevention to stay updated!

Within the past two years, we have planned and facilitated multiple healing community events with various partners, conducted the PhotoVoice project, engaged youth in data analysis and writing research papers, implemented youth engagement efforts within local conferences, developed and implemented youth-led trainings, conducted a paid 7-week mental health arts program for youth, honored people lost due to suicide, overdose, mental health struggles and substance misuse for our EYEremember project and event, and much more! Many of our successes have been rooted in partnering with purpose and identifying meaningful ways to bring people together.

Given this year’s theme, how do you approach building sustainable connections and equitable collaborations with other individuals and organizations in your work?

Relationship building is key. Truly developing an authentic relationship where there is trust and reciprocity is the most effective way to build sustainable connections and equitable collaborations. Trust is something that has to be earned especially when considering the historical inequities and injustices that have been present within government organizations. A process of truth, reconciliation, justice, and healing is often necessary when building trust. These are essential steps that we must consider when trying to build meaningful connections, especially with the community and people who have lived and living experience.

Reciprocity can look different depending on the situation. Connections should be a two-way street, where everyone is benefiting from the relationship and gaining something meaningful. If it feels one-sided or tokenizing then it is not sustainable. We also need to talk about adequate compensation for folks. We need to be paying youth and community, meeting their unique needs, and breaking down barriers to engaging. Lastly, Toni Morrison says,

“As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”

That is such a beautiful approach because it allows us the space for radical imagination, to dream and envision a new future. I always take this approach because being in that dream space doesn’t cloud our vision with all of the possible barriers or issues, which can always come later when doing strategic planning. We must be open-minded and holistic when thinking about this work.

Why do you think it is imperative to support youth and young adults to attend AMCHP 2024?

Because youth and young adults are not just the future, they are the RIGHT NOW! We need their expertise, energy, innovations, and creativity to be present in all spaces. Whenever we are doing work and making decisions about people, those people should be at the table. They should be eating. They should be informing the damn menu! Otherwise, we are missing critical considerations, perspectives, and ideas. Another thing that I have learned through youth engagement work is that when it is engaging for young people, it is also engaging for adults! Everyone wants to be in a space where their different learning styles are honored, where they can connect and engage with others, feel a sense of belonging, and have fun! Sometimes there is a disconnect between youth engagement and engagement in general, and I’ve realized that no matter what age we are, we all want to engage in meaningful ways. Sometimes tapping into that beginner’s mind or the youth perspective can help remind us of that.

Call to action: If you engage with youth in your work, or know of youth doing MCH-related work in your community/organization, please plan to budget for bringing youth to this conference! Please support our mission and support the young people you work with in attending! We will be sending out some more communications for this and leveraging funding for things like scholarships and ensuring we have meaningful youth engagement opportunities at the conference.

What aspects of this year’s conference are you most excited about?

I am most excited about the youth-led opening plenary session! Y’all do NOT want to miss this. Come join us as we ground in gratitude, and start our journey together through the AMCHP Conference! This youth-designed and youth-led plenary session will feature EYE For Prevention Youth Leaders and local Youth Leaders in Oakland. We will demonstrate the power of youth voice and partnering with purpose. Through this session, we will tap into engaging activities to help people embody the learning in meaningful ways while engaging in a call to action. Young people will bless the mic with their poetry, performance, and creative skills to guide us through a transformative opening plenary. This first plenary will plant the seeds of this healing evolution of MCH. After the opening plenary, I will be very excited to explore Oakland, engage in some amazing conference sessions, and connect with people throughout this experience.

What key takeaways do you hope attendees will gain from attending this year’s conference?

Take action regarding the conference theme “Partnering With Purpose.” Identify a meaningful partnership you can build, ways you can come together and braid funding, new community organizations to work with, and overall just leveraging meaningful connections. Remember to dream a little before you think.

How do you think this conference will impact the future of MCH?

I see this conference being a catalyst for positive change for the future of MCH. Every time I join a planning committee meeting, I am inspired by the passion and dedication of every single person on the call. I see a clear commitment to equity, anti-racism, and authentic youth engagement. I am very grateful to be a part of these efforts and work with so many other amazing MCH professionals across the U.S. and beyond. When I think of coming together for this conference, it reminds me of creating a sacred movement and what that truly means within MCH and public health work. I am inspired by my daughter, who just turned two years old, to do this sacred and healing work for families everywhere. As Angela Davis says,

“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”