Lessons and stories from Healthy Communities Leadership Academy

Crystal with her group after the photo activity from the April workshop. Rebecca Garza and Joey Lightner are also pictured (L-to-R)

What is your story?

This was a question that was posed to us during the first Healthy Communities Leadership Academy workshop back in November. As individuals, we all have a story to tell and an important component of this is the power we have to serve as our own storytellers. What is equally important is the use of that power to showcase voices that are not often heard.

Crystal’s Suggestions to New Participants

  • Taking pictures is important
  • Be mentally present in the workshops. Workshop dates are provided in advance to help participants be away from work responsibilities.
  • Avoid email and social media distractions
  • Embrace the new relationships you’ll find in the academy

Part of my own story involves my journey to and through the Academy that initially was not supposed to happen.  While I experienced some disappointment after not being initially selected with the cohort, I knew that the opportunity would come back around soon, not realizing it would come so soon.

I received a call a few weeks before the first workshop with news about a seat that was available.  For me, the path to joining the cohort didn’t matter; I was in and ready to soak up the knowledge.  

In thinking back to the importance of storytelling and its relationship to health and health equity, the story is as important as the person who has the opportunity to tell the story. One of the job responsibilities I have is to create content for the 20/20 Leadership blog. While the blog was launched in May 2016, the Academy has helped me to revisit my interview approach and recognize the power that I have in crafting the stories about our program.   

One activity that I enjoyed the most from the workshop was the Photo Hunt for Policy Interests. While the purpose of the activity was to take pictures around the city that depicted a policy issue, I also viewed the exercise from a storytelling lens. Eventually, we focused on who was not at the table, specifically as it relates to boards and commissions. Many of these meetings, including City Council meetings, are held during the day, when work obligations for some residents take precedence. This practice ultimately does not allow unusual voices to be heard and leaves decisions in the hands of those with the privilege to attend.

We discussed ideas on how new voices can get engaged with the policy decision making process, including specific recruitment in zip codes with the lowest life expectancy for its residents. After the recruitment process, subsequent training and support as they serve on the boards and commissions must also take place, including mentorship.  

During the activity, my team talked to a woman walking in the Brookside area, as well as the owner of the local dry cleaners on Troost Avenue. We saw them at different parts of the city, but their desire to see all Kansas Citians enjoy opportunity was apparent. The conversations we had with them challenged the narrative that people don’t care about issues of their fellow residents.  

While the Healthy Communities Leadership Academy served as just one part of my story, it has forever changed how I view stories. Furthermore, I am continuously challenged to reflect on how the story impacts health equity and policy on all levels.


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HCF's Local Health Buzz Blog aims to discuss health and health policy issues that impact the uninsured and underserved in our service area. To submit a blog, please contact HCF Communications Officers, Jennifer Sykes, at jsykes@hcfgkc.org.

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