Youth Leader Reflections on APHA 2018
“Your health is affected by your genetic code, not your zip code.” This quote really impacted my thinking and reminded me as to why I do what I do. Being able to attend the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting (APHA) in November was truly an amazing experience that has really shaped my life for the better.
Heading over to San Diego was such an unbelievable experience; seeing all the scenery on the drive there plus actually being in a town that is so beautifully cultured was truly unforgettable. San Diego is known for having its Chicano influence, and it honestly made me feel right at home. When we arrived in San Diego, we stopped at Chicano Park which hit really close to home. Seeing that the community had rallied in order to make such beautiful artwork and a community hub that centers around Latino culture was inspiring. It really made me think about how where we live impacts our lives. The visions and feel of the park really inspired me to think about expanding the work we do in our parks in Greenfield. As part of the Greenfield Walking Group we recently completed a community mural at Rexland Acres Park. Our community came together to paint a mural that represents who we are and our culture, but so far it has only been one park. Since seeing and being inspired by Chicano Park in San Diego, I want to take that and bring it back to Bakersfield and Greenfield to continue displaying our culture in all of our parks.
The main reason I went to APHA was because my colleague, Barbara, and I presented on our accomplishments and goals in public health as youth in the Greenfield Walking Group. We had our own roundtable session where groups could listen to the work we have done in our community. We shared our history of using PhotoVoice and VideoVoice for advocacy and how we worked with local decision makers to help create safer routes to school. Our table was one of 10 youth tables. It was very inspiring to see that there are more youth around the world that are active and advocating for change in their communities. Many of the people we met and had conversations with were surprised at our age and our involvement with public health. I am very grateful that this experience has allowed me to really put my communication skills into practice and think about how to improve my community for the better.
Attending APHA really helped me build my knowledge and understanding of the world and the connection to my community. I know that Greenfield can have nice parks just like San Diego’s Chicano Park, and I know that we as youth can impact how our community grows and changes. I saw first hand how 10 youth groups from all over the world are changing their community. Since my trip to San Diego I had the chance to visit my state representative and invite him to attend an upcoming community clean-up. My hope is to get more local and state decision makers involved in order to make changes that make everyone feel at home and connected in their community. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a park that represented the culture and people in every neighborhood?