Every decision made in schools directly affects students’ lives, but they typically have little say in the process of developing the rules, policies, and curricula, that shape the school environment. We need today’s students to be tomorrow’s leaders, but how are we helping them learn the skills they’ll need, especially when it comes to creating healthy communities?
If we want future generations to be innovative and to engineer a brighter future, we need to give them authentic and thought-provoking ways to practice those skills.
KC Healthy Kids’ I AM HERE Youth Advocacy Program is a fantastic tool for teaching students how our surroundings impact our health and how to advocate for change. It gives them the skills and the power they need to bring about lasting improvements. The program gives students ownership of their own education and lets them participate as equal partners in the decision-making process. At least 20 schools in North Kansas City, KCK, Raytown and Lee’s Summit have signed on for the current school year.
I AM HERE Students progress through three stages on their way to becoming “Champions of Health.”
- Training: Students are trained on the basics of healthy living and healthy communities.
- Activities: Students practice and share what they have learned with their peers and community members. In particular, classrooms are given a platform to take the first steps in speaking out for a healthier community through KC Healthy Kid’s annual photo contest. Their captioned photos tell stories and sow seeds of advocacy for change now and into the future.
- Speaking out for Healthy Kids: Students identify environmental barriers to their health, research possible solutions and present their ideas to decision makers. In many cases, youth can actually lead efforts to improve their neighborhoods and connect with community partners to get the job done.
Students must work together to research solutions in a wide variety of topics and apply that knowledge to solve real-life environment issues in their neighborhoods, ultimately deepening their understanding of health, citizenship and community.
By considering their environment and its impact on their health, these students are empowered to speak out and add their voices – which are often missing – to our collective efforts to create healthy communities.
This blog post is part of A Healthy 10.