Healthy Youth Relationship Summit Recap

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On May 9 in beautiful Eugene, Oregon right in the middle of allergy season, I got the opportunity to help facilitate the Oregon School Based Health Alliance’s first ever Healthy Youth Relationship Summit. The summit had a total of ninety young people and adult coordinators and allies from over twenty different schools, organizations, and other agencies in attendance. Speaking from my experience, it was a massive success. The theme of the Summit was Demand Respect. The goal was to provide youth and adults alike with workshops which teach the means to demand respect from themselves, their relationships, and their communities. Along with that we wanted to provide resources and networking opportunities for them to pursue future projects and other opportunities to improve their communities.

The day opened with a few ice breakers to get everyone in the room comfortable with one another as many of the workshops later on would require audience participation. Once everyone was comfortable interacting with one another and excited for the day we sent everyone off to their first workshops of the day. The first two workshops were presented by HAVEN (Help Against Violent Encounters Now) and their teen theater troupe and Butte Falls Charter School and Prospect High School SBHCs. HAVEN performed a number of skits which presented the viewers with a series of situations in which they were invited to intervene and improv with the actors in the teen theater troupe. Their presentation revolved around the effect of bystander intervention and making people comfortable intervening in unsafe situations.

Butte Falls Charter school and their Student Health Advisory Group had a Q&A panel based discussion in which they described their different projects as well as the problems they faced being in a rural community and what they did to combat those problems. Butte Falls enacted multiple different advocacy campaigns within their school and their community despite being met with opposition from those within their own school system. The students also independently reformed school policy around sexual harassment by increasing the initially minimal punishment and added language about sexual assault. We awarded the students at Butte Falls and their advisor awards for their successes during lunch.

After the first round of workshops we broke for lunch and listened to two keynote speakers. The first of which was Ketchura Antoine from the Statewide YAC and she gave insight into her views of modern relationships and how it is important to focus on compatibility and your own comfort level with someone rather than any superficial distractions. The second keynote speaker was Madison Bray who works with Lines for Life which is a youth-oriented help line that in addition to accepting calls also implements texts and instant messages to help at-risk youth. She spoke about Lines for Life and what they do and how to get involved. I encourage anyone reading this to look them up. After the two keynote speakers OSBHA’s Suzanne Flory spoke about the CORE grant program which is used to fund smaller projects in schools to help aid their community.

Once lunch had ended we went into the final round of workshops. This time it would be Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon presenting their Adolescent Healthcare Communications Project (AHCCP) and Lotus Rising’s Youth Empowerment Theater. AHCCP is something that I am familiar with and is a training oriented toward adults in the health field to give them insight into want teens want in a healthcare setting. It is designed to improve interactions with adults and teens in regards to sexual health and behavior so that teenagers feel more comfortable sharing information and asking questions to ultimately improve their healthcare. Lotus Rising led several team-building exercises and they created a safe space where people felt that they could share things about themselves which bonded them to the group and allowed them to realize the kind of support structure they always have.

At the end we took a group photo and wrapped up with evaluations and said our goodbyes. Overall I found the Summit to be a success. Not only did it succeed in bringing young people together to learn and grow but it also succeeded as a networking event to bring different groups together to work on future projects and affect further change in their communities.