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Youth-led community organizing as a tool for building resilience


It started as an answer to a youth-led campaign. Young people in arts programs in San Francisco Bay Area schools had produced spoken word videos about inequities in their communities that helped put them at risk for type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Jean Junior

The response by their peers was enormous, according to Dr. Jean Junior, who volunteered for the project as a pediatric resident at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). “Young people would say ‘You’ve actually gotten me interested. I’d like to do something about these structural problems in my community at a policy level. How do I do that?’”

The result is the newly-released Pathways to Policy Playbook produced jointly by The Bigger Picture project, Pediatric Leadership for the Underserved program at UCSF, the Youth Leadership Institute and Change Lab Solutions.

While its purpose is to provide a guide for community organizing for young people, notably, the guide also highlights the need for utilizing trauma-informed practices and self-care. “Meditation can help you cope with stress by allowing your body and brain to relax,” states a section of the guide on self-care. The idea for the section, explains Junior, who was one of the lead authors, was initiated by the young people involved in the project.

As a pediatric resident, Junior is well versed in the groundbreaking CDC/Kaiser Permanente study that linked 10 types of childhood traumas with health outcomes in adults. She says that the Playbook can serve as an antidote to ACEs by helping young people build resilience “not only through giving them tools to change policies, but also tools to amplify their voices and helping them feel like they can have a say in how the world around them works.”  


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