Eagle Point HS students provide Cover Oregon outreach: Q&A with Ceci Robe

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Ceci Robe is the SBHC manager at Eagle Point High School in Medford, Oregon. In recent weeks, she worked with members of the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) to provide Cover Oregon outreach to students and staff on the high school campus. In this brief Q&A, Ceci talks about the Cover Oregon outreach project, how their YAC operates and engages students, and what kind of impact the project had on participants and the school climate.

OSBHA: Tell us about your Youth Advisory Council and what makes it appealing to students.

CR: The YAC is a group of students representing their grade level, typically one boy and one girl from each grade is what works best. This is an opportunity for youth to be involved in a group/committee at school, much like some other groups available at this school, such as leadership, theater, etc. These students are invited by the SBHC usually at the beginning of the new school year. An invitational letter goes out to the selected students with an overview of what the YAC is, our mission, time commitment, activities during the school year and some other information about the SBHC. If a student is interested, she or he needs to come into the health center and we will then let them know when the first meeting is. We usually have it during lunch time and we feed them lunch! They receive a binder with resources and information about the YAC, activities, our SBHC, Cover Oregon, photo release forms, and other paperwork.

OSBHA: What made Cover Oregon outreach a priority for your YAC?

CR: We wanted to do something for the “SBHC Awareness” month in February. The Oregon School-Based Health Alliance had offered Cover Oregon training in Medford for all the YACs in Jackson County, but our students could not find transportation on a Saturday morning to attend this training. We thought that perhaps we could train our YAC members ourselves during lunch at school for a few weeks. We prepped them with information about Cover Oregon with the understanding that they would be the ones talking with their peers about health care, how to obtain it, and the importance of it as they move on with their lives!

OSBHA: How did your students make Cover Oregon more youth-focused and youth-friendly?

CR: I think once they understood what it meant and what it was, they were able to explain to peers “in their own language,” making it much simpler and easier to understand. They talked about the bottom line and that is a pretty easy message. The idea is to get them to give the “first step,” then we will help with the process. We also have an Oregon Health Plan outreach worker at our SBHC every second Tuesday of each month who can meet with students and their families and guardians. The students made their faces the face of Cover Oregon, and that helped them connect with their peers.

OSBHA: What might your youth identify as important things they learned while participating in Cover Oregon outreach and education efforts?

CR: My observation has been that they feel the importance of having some kind of health protection, because things happen and they know friends that have health issues but have not been able to address them due to a lack of medical insurance. I think they learned that the process for getting insurance is easier than they thought and that there is help for them if they are interested.

OSBHA: What leadership development and health advocacy skills did youth gain while participating in outreach and education efforts?

CR: The YAC had a booth just outside of the cafeteria for several days during a period of time in February and March. They ran the booth and had flyers, applications, and brochures, and talked with students and staff about Cover Oregon and how the SBHC could help! Public speaking can be a significant fear for many people, so they learned to get out there and share. They felt that they were doing something important and they felt important because of it. After the project was over, a few of them came back to the health center asking when they were going to do it again! We gave them lots of praise for a job well done and we had a lunch party at the end of the project with some prizes for everyone. They were happy and had a good time doing it, and they did not feel it interfered with school time and work.

OSBHA: Could you share any Cover Oregon success stories of young people who have enrolled in health insurance and what their experience was like?

CR: During our outreach project, we passed out some applications with business cards from our SBHC. We have had a couple of kids come in inquiring about it. One student was enrolled quickly and the process was very painless. This boy is an emancipated youth, living on his own, and he is only 16 years old.

OSBHA: How would you describe the overall impact of your outreach and education efforts?

CR: I think that we were able to create awareness for Cover Oregon at Eagle Point High School, not only among the youth but with staff as well. As a matter of fact, we passed out applications to staff just as much as to the students! Some adults indicated that they knew "someone” that could benefit from it. Hopefully we built some awareness in the community as well. We also placed posters and flyers at the city library and the Chamber of Commerce with our local business phone number. Since then, I have received phone calls inquiring about the Cover Oregon. We are now in the process of having conversations with the school district for our SBHC to be a point of access for the community at Eagle Point, and I hope the SBHC can provide that level of service!