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November 21, 2013

Youth Advocate for Change Statewide and in their Communities

MERCED, Calif. – The Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Steering Committee on Youth Leadership convened for three days in October to discuss how they can collaborate and learn from each other for the betterment of youth across the state and in their own communities.

“I am hopeful that the voice of the steering committee will cause people within The California Endowment and at each site to reconsider the power, competence and wisdom of youth and that, as a result, youth have more opportunities to take leadership at all levels within the TCE and BHC work,” said Melissa Guajardo, coordinator of the committee and program director at the California Center for Civic Participation.

The purpose of the committee – made up of youth from all 14 BHC communities – is to coordinate and support statewide youth structure development, create opportunities for cross site youth engagement learning, support cross site communication regarding youth leadership, and guide statewide youth policy advocacy efforts.

Over the next two years, the committee plans to meet in different BHC hubs so that members can see the work that is being done across the state.

“I like the notion of traveling among the different sites, whether rural or urban, in order to get a sense of the great work that is going around. I like what other sites are doing, like implementing restorative justice, and I try to think of ways of how my community can incorporate some of their ideas. I am always inspired by the work that others do, and feel that my community of Boyle Heights can do so much more,” said Luis Melchor, the representative from Boyle Heights.

Many of the youth, such as Yajaira Medrano from East Salinas, want to learn from the different projects being implemented by other communities.

“I want to learn how youth statewide are getting engaged in the BHC work and what issues still need to be addressed. This can help East Salinas youth engage more youth in our work and different tactics that can make our efforts successful,” said Medrano.

Pedro Gomez, representative from Fresno, said, “Through the BHC Statewide Steering Committee, I hope to learn how to nurture and build those essential youth and adult partnerships in order to create positive sustainable change in California. Change has to start within yourself and from there you can change local, regional, and statewide communities. Ideally, the goal is to live healthier, longer, and be more active in your communities.”
By getting to know their counterparts across the state, committee organizers hope the members will be inspired to advocate for change in their own communities.

“I hope (committee members) come away with the sense that there is a youth movement in California, that we are not just working in silos in our individual community,” said Guajardo, organizer of the convening. “I want the members to feel their power and their strength as individuals and a collective.”

The committee was conceived in winter of 2011 by the California Center for Civic Participation, the Movement Strategy Center, and The California Endowment. In January of 2012, the committee was funded and its first meeting took place in April of the same year. Together, the members of this group are setting out to amplify the voice, creativity and power of youth to organize and advocate for transformational change and healing across California.

Johnny Flores, Jr., 16, is a new member of the Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Steering Committee on Youth Leadership. He represents the Eastern Coachella Valley.
- See more at: Coachella Unincorporated

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