What young people got and gave by joining AMCHP’s Annual Conference
State Adolescent Health Coordinator
Texas Department of State Health Services
Texas A&M University
The Texas Youth Action Network (TYAN) was honored to lead the youth program entitled “Youth and Adults, Better Together” at the 2019 AMCHP Conference in San Antonio. It was an incredible opportunity to meet new people, learn how positive youth development looks outside our home state of Texas, and interact with smart and energetic young people from across the country, from Alaska to Puerto Rico.
Youth participants received a warm welcome wherever they went. Fifty-five program registrants – more than thirty between the ages of 14 to 24 – interacted with peers and adults of different backgrounds and points of view. Experienced youth leaders modeled their own advocacy in areas ranging from public health policy and health education to underage drinking and teen pregnancy prevention. In a workshop setting, teams worked together to create ambitious plans addressing challenges that threaten the well-being of young people in their home communities. Among the proposals were a comprehensive smoke-free ordinance, ideas to reduce homelessness, and restrictions on the sale of powdered alcohol.
Youth program participants talked directly with maternal-child health policy leaders, including the outgoing and incoming presidents of the AMCHP board, Susan Chacon and Kate Wilcox, as well as AMCHP CEO Jonathan Webb. Young people and adults expressed their views about youth engagement in a two-way exchange that challenged assumptions on both sides. One adolescent participant asked if young voices can be taken seriously when youth are referred to as “children” in the language of maternal-child health. Policy leaders described the personal stories that drew them to the field, modeling relatable career trajectories and demonstrating from their own experience how one individual can make a difference and even lead.
Our AMCHP hosts helped TYAN connect with a cross-section of organizations interested in infusing youth voice into public health at all levels. We were graciously invited to hear about youth initiatives from other Title V state adolescent health coordinators and from the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health. We gained a national perspective on the many ways different states are building youth capacity and made many new friends eager to share program models that can encourage and inspire Texas communities.
We particularly enjoyed new opportunities to collaborate: The TYAN team co-presented with members of the Puerto Rico Youth Advisory Council and their adult advisors, Bessie Lopez and Gloria Montalvo, on building successful youth-adult partnerships. At the same time, we were able to spread the word about the TYAN Project, now in our first year of Title V maternal and child health funding from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Of course, there was more than a little fun for young people of all ages: the TYAN photo booth, Play-Doh art contest, Instagram scavenger hunt, visit to the Alamo, freestyle dancing in the Exhibit Hall – and don’t even ask about the secret handshake!
All in all, leading the youth program was an amazing experience. Everyone who took part learned something new. Youth participants said the experience changed their approach to advocacy, and adults were inspired to find new ways for young people to impact programs and services that affect their lives.
It is exciting and rewarding to be connected with people who value positive youth development and support youth voice. By continuing this commitment together, we can build stronger and more resilient future generations.
Leaders Who Made it Happen
The Texas Youth Action Network’s youth program was made possible by the help and support of our close partners. Glynis Shea and Kristin Teipel of the State Adolescent Health Resource Center, Evelyn Delgado of Texas’ Healthy Futures teen pregnancy prevention program, Georgianne Crowell and Alicia Rosas of Texans Standing Tall, and Brent Blackburn of Extreme Youth Leadership coordinated a variety of youth-led interactive activities. Thanks to Iliana White and the other AMCHP staff, along with AMCHP members, who helped make the 2019 youth program a success.