Youth Advocacy Corps (“YAC”) launched its pilot program—the Youth Advocacy Summer Institute (“YASI”) in 2015. YASI is a summer-long health justice, advocacy and youth leadership program, through which young people are trained to become health advocates in their own communities. YASI provides service and experiential learning opportunities, in addition to training, and the youth work for a living-wage stipend as health advocates in Brooklyn.
Weeks 1 and 2 of YASI are part of the youth participants’ “bootcamp.” During these weeks, the advocates participate in issue-based workshops and group exercises to develop leadership and life skills. Speakers come in to discuss different forms of advocacy and health issues facing communities impacted by poverty, and have included, among others:
- Community organizers from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI);
- Lawyers (one from the Legal Health division of NYLAG and another from South Brooklyn Legal Services);
- Communications experts (one from BerlinRosen and the other a professor from Baruch College); and,
- The director of a medical translation program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital.
During Week 3, each YASI advocate works at a health clinic or community-based advocacy organization, which have included: Make the Road NYC, NYLPI, Jamaica Hospital, East New York Farms, the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Clinic and Berlin Rosen. The youth advocates learn a lot through these externships and are often surprised by how much they can contribute based on what they learned in the YASI bootcamp.
Throughout the last three weeks of the program, the YASI youth advocates work in health outreach clinics in the Brooklyn public libraries (including New Lots, Clarendon, Macon, East Flatbush, Cypress Hills and Prospect Heights). They provide resources and referrals and answer the questions of community members about their health rights. In addition, the YASI advocates each chose a health justice topic and develop an advocacy campaign which they launch in their communities and continue to work on after YASI is over.
YASI 2015: YASI’s terrific founding corps was composed of ten youth advocates from all over NYC, including East New York, Brownsville, Sunset Park, Crown Heights, Bushwick, the South Bronx, Mill Basin, and Harlem. Some of the youth traveled over an hour each way to be part of YASI. Nonetheless, everyone was excited to engage in 6 weeks of advocacy training, leadership skill-building and service. Moreover, the diversity of the group led to fascinating and thought-provoking discussions.At the 2015 graduation ceremony, the YASI corps members had an opportunity to present their individual advocacy projects, which they worked on throughout the 2015-2016 school year. Their projects cover a wide range of topics. For example, two youth are working on erasing the stigma around mental health and encouraging their peers and communities to focus on bringing more services to their communities. Another participant is working on providing health resources and information to undocumented immigrants in her community who may be eligible for public health assistance of some kind. Additionally, another young person is hoping to reduce the number of tobacco smokers in his community, using his artwork and social media to spread the message that smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in America and should therefore be avoided.
You can learn more about YASI’s work on our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/youthadvocacysummerinstitute?ref=aymt_homepage_panel
Please feel free to contact Jennifer Magida, founder and director of YASI, with any questions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And check out our website at http://www.advocacycorps.org.