Youth Master Plan work informs presentations on youth engagement, community health

June 18, 2018– Seven Lake County youth presented at the second annual Shared Risk and Protective Factors Conference in Keystone on May 30 and June 1 in a panel presentation titled, “Being a Youth in the Highest City in the Country.” Brayhan Reveles, Verania Rodriguez, Bianca Gonzales, Moriah Perkins, Patricia Galaviz, Edgar Tarango and Stephanie Reveles offered conference attendees an honest and straightforward conversation about the contributing factors to youth substance youth in Leadville and Lake County, and how youth are actively working to change the drug and alcohol culture in their community.

Lake County youth present a panel discussion at the Shared Risk and Protective Factors Conference in Keystone. Pictured are (back row) Brayhan Reveles; (front row, left to right) Patricia Galaviz, Verania Rodriguez, Bianca Gonzales, Moriah Perkins, Edgar Tarango and Stephanie Reveles.

“There is a force of youth in Lake County who are committed to making their community the healthiest place to live in Colorado,” said Jena Finch, Youth Master Plan coordinator. “This conference was an excellent opportunity to recognize these community leaders. I am so proud of how they represented themselves and Lake County.”

The conference, sponsored by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center, brought together professionals from around Colorado to discuss how issues like poverty, substance abuse, safety and social engagement impact communities. The conference focused on learning and implementing strategies to address shared risk and protective factors in improving community health outcomes. Youth engagement also was discussed.

“Presenting at the conference I learned that there are many people who want to get youth involved and want to listen to them,” said Bianca Gonzales, one of the youth presenters. “The increase in youth engagement and search for interested youth is a big part of what many people and organizations are trying to focus on.”

In 2017, the Lake County Youth Master Plan’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug (ATOD) Coalition used data and information collected by youth researchers to prioritize Lake County’s risk and protective factors for youth substance use. The coalition identified two community risk factors (things that may contribute to youth substance use): favorable individual and peer attitude toward the problem behavior; and favorable parental attitude and involvement toward the problem behavior. The coalition prioritized “opportunities for a prosocial environment” as the key protective factor (something that may decrease or prevent youth substance use). The ATOD coalition is now working to identify strategies to decrease these risk factors and increase the protective factor in our community.

Youth Master Plan Manager John Nelson presents on youth engagement during the Shared Risk and Protective Factors Conference. Sitting, left from right, are Youth Master Plan coordinators Cailee Hamm and Jena Finch, and Youth Master Plan interns Verania Rodriguez and Brayhan Reveles.

In addition to the youth panel presentation, Lake County Build a Generation staff John Nelson, Jena Finch and Cailee Hamm, as well as youth interns Brayhan Reveles and Verania Rodriguez, presented a conference breakout session titled, “Nothing for Us, Without Us.” The presentation discussed youth engagement and highlighted successes and lessons learned from Lake County’s Youth Master Plan work.

“Youth have played a critical role in much of the recent Youth Master Plan work, including the Get Outdoors Leadville! grant proposal as well as our youth mental health and substance abuse initiatives,” said John Nelson, Youth Master Plan manager. “It’s important that youth are at the center of any work we do to improve their health outcomes, and we’ve learned that this requires authentically and intentionally creating leadership opportunities that leverage their expertise and build their skills in meaningful ways.”

As part of its mission to organize Lake County to create a healthier community for youth and families, Lake County Build a Generation coordinates the Youth Master Plan/Health Equity Partnership. The Youth Master Plan/Health Equity Partnership houses a number of coalitions that bring together youth, community members, and representatives of various local nonprofits and government agencies to address issues of health and well-being. To learn more or get involved, visit lcbag.org or call 719-486-4114.