Youth Advocates in Action at the State Capitol

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On February 26, I woke up, hopped into my white 1986 Cabriolet, and drove from my home in Portland, Oregon, to the state’s capital, Salem, for Awareness Day 2015.

The capitol building was sleepy when I arrived—I was alone as I made my way up the marble steps into the building. Downstairs in Room 50, the largest rentable space in the building, the Youth Action Council of the Oregon School-Based Health Alliance (OSHBA) worked to ensure that Awareness Day 2015 went as planned.

Months of preparation gave way to split second scheduling changes. The order of our material would have to change to accommodate guest speakers. The ice-breaker we had designed would be challenging to pull off with the number of participants who RSVP’d.

An hour later the room was beginning to fill. A line streaming out the door let me know that this year’s turnout would be the largest in Oregon history.

By the time everyone had filled the room we were out of chairs. “Welcome to Awareness Day 2015!” my fellow OSBHA YAC member Ketchura Antoine exclaimed. Here goes nothing, I thought.

In total, 125 motivated youth came to Salem from all across the state. I had the chance to speak with some of them about why they were there over the course of the day.

Some had come to support their school-based health center (SBHC), while others had come simply to learn more about the legislative process. Their motivations were wildly diverse, and as I talked with various participants, I found a lot of my passions reflected in their words.

Beyond the bills we worked to support this Awareness Day, the sheer amount of state wide support has all of us at OSBHA reinvigorated for the coming year.

What drives you to work for school-based health care? Share in the comments!