Summer Programs Engage Allegheny County Youth Advocates
Youth advocates have opportunities to raise their voices this summer, thanks to two partners of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) Youth Advocacy Network. Programs through the neighborhood-based teen mental health initiative UpStreet of Squirrel Hill, and the Summer Learn&Earn Program of Partner4Work are offering teens the chance to learn more about mental health and share their thoughts and perspectives.
UpStreet launched their teen advisory group with ten youth attending virtually, including some JHF youth advocates. The youth hail from various Allegheny County schools, including Taylor Allderdice, Penn Hills, Upper St. Clair, and Fox Chapel, and a few college students from Brandeis University, University of Pittsburgh, and Barnard College joined. The program provides opportunities for leadership and advocacy, and a chance for UpStreet to get youth feedback on their website and marketing materials. UpStreet is also bringing art therapists onto the calls, to facilitate a painting activity the youth complete at home. Once the teens can meet in their physical space at UpStreet, they will combine their art pieces in a display inspired by teen perspectives on mental health. All teens who engage with UpStreet now have the option to see the new UpStreet therapist, Stephanie Rodriguez, who will continue to support the program as well as any teen needing therapy, even if they have not engaged with UpStreet in other ways.
As part of Partner4Work's Summer Learn&Earn program, JHF and UpStreet are virtually hosting 14 high school students interested in mental health advocacy. Deborah Murdoch, MPH, program manager at JHF and Carol Frazer, LPC, practice transformation specialist at the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative are leading the advocacy work with the students. The youth will continue working part time through August 7 and complete final projects to advise community stakeholders and school leaders on teen mental health perspectives. Learn&Earn student Jorden Phillips, a junior at Taylor Allderdice High School, said the program has been an enjoyable and educational experience so far and is looking forward to the rest of the program. She mentioned the importance of bringing teens into the conversation about mental health, saying, "People should take [teen mental health] more seriously. There should be more lessons in schools… The youth have a lot to say, and adults should listen."