Hand it to them: A Case for Student Empowerment
There is something remarkable about watching a group of high school students learn about systems change. In part, my surprise is derived from my own lack of vocabulary to talk about similar issues until I had reached college, and from there, I learned from my mentors, Asian American studies, and public health classes. There is power in being handed the vocabulary to identify discrimination and inequity: these are tools in starting advocacy work and building identity.
Adolescents are often underestimated in their abilities to be mature and competent workers, never mind working towards changing health perceptions and policy for their peers. However, they more keenly understand the current perceptions and stigmas surrounding the use of much-needed wellness centers in their communities and approaches with which to campaign on health issues. As the student engagement intern at The L.A. Trust this summer, I’ve been able to both experience and facilitate the impact that students can have on their campus and their community when offered an opportunity to promote change in their Youth and Student Advisory Boards by designing campaign resources for their Adult Allies, developing an evaluation tool, and creating a guide for social media in promoting their own work.
Students have the insight to participate in the support and advancement of their own health as much as any of their stakeholders. The L.A. Trust demonstrates that by going beyond seeking simple input and instead amplifying their voices— The L.A. Trust develops and allows student leaders to start addressing disparities within their own schools and communities. Not only does this empower them in the present, it allows them the tools to succeed in school and emerge as leaders in the future. And I cannot wait to see how far they will go.
Christina Lee is a psychobiology major at UCLA. To learn more about Christina, click here.