Youth for Healthy Schools

Floreciendo From Mentee to Mentor

InnerCity Struggle (ICS), based out of East Los Angeles, hosts Estefany Ines Garcia one of the Healthy Communities III Fellows. ICS organizes to build a powerful and an influential movement of youth and families on the Eastside of Los Angeles to promote healthy, safe and nonviolent communities. 

Healthy Communities III is a fellowship program connected to eight youth organizing groups in the West, South, Northeast and Southwest. Each group hosts a Healthy Communities Fellow who leads their school and community wellness work and connects it to state and national strategies for change including community education and engagement and policy development and implementation.

In this reflection, we learned from Estefany about her growth and transformation as a leader and organizer, and the relationship of her personal journey and her work as a mentor to young people campaigning for higher quality and better access to food in their school.


My name is Estefany Garcia and I am a youth organizer with InnerCity Struggle (ICS) in Los Angeles, California. For the past 2 years, I have been transforming from mentee to mentor as a fellow with the Funders Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO).

My mother brought me to life when she was 16 years old, and since then both of my parents, who were undocumented, have had to work two jobs to sustain our family. To avoid coming home to an empty house with no food, I joined the Chicana/o Studies Club after school in the 8th grade. Apart from being fed, they helped me develop my socio-political consciousness with other youth leaders. Then, I became involved with the Eastside Café, an autonomous community space in my neighborhood that introduced me to organizing, Son Jarocho music, and my extended family of community organizers.

facebook_1543352112371Being raised by my community collectively, I saw how they organized through the arts, but never received formal training. I had many trials and errors as I began to organize and take on more responsibilities along the way.

Fortunately, when I began organizing with InnerCity Struggle, I was offered the Healthy Communities Fellowship with FCYO where I could receive formal coaching and organizing trainings. Throughout my first year at ICS, I dealt with self doubt and didn’t feel confident sharing my recommendations when surrounded by senior organizers. I would feel ashamed and embarrassed for not knowing everything I needed to know coming into the field but had the support from my coach Nijmie and the fellows across the nation where we shared our vulnerabilities, challenges, best practices and affirmed each other along the way. During my second year of the fellowship, I put the skills I gained to practice when I began helping youth leaders begin their first campaign.

Our first campaign was transformative for everyone involved! We were all learning how to unfold a campaign from start to finish together. It all started from a venting session. During one of our meetings, we were talking about friends, family, expectations, and school. The conversation about school kept going back to their negative lunch time experience. I got a poster paper, and began jotting down the issues they were sharing.

They shared how the food was often burnt or undercooked, and how students in general didn’t eat to avoid the long lines. A former United Students leader shared: “How do they expect us to do well in school if we are not eating! That’s it, WE WANT FOOD NOW!” This led to their chosen campaign name. Their fire and enthusiasm to change the injustice sparked a fire in me that gave me to courage to take on the challenge with them!

Following the conversation, I checked in with Nijmie and my supervisor. They suggested we hold a delegation with the principal to discuss the issue and explore alternatives. I prepped with the youth leaders. We assigned roles, created a script, and made index cards in case they forgot their talking points. The young folks were prepared but still looked nervous. As we did a unity clap before entering the delegation, I tried to hide my nerves, acting as if this was not my first delegation.

During the delegation, the principal ignored their concerns and recommendations. He said that the reason the lines were so long was because people forgot their pin number to get their food. He said, “Next semester y’all can make a campaign to create pin number awareness. Thank you for your time.”

The young people left the delegation feeling confused. They felt like their ideas were dismissed, and instead wanted to gather information to use as evidence for the problem they were experiencing. That is when we began youth participatory action research with the support from another Healthy Communities fellow. The young people, driven to improve the school’s lunch experience, also added extra meetings during the week to address the issue before the semester ended.20180517_114802

The youth leaders came up with the questions, finalized the survey design, and distributed them to their peers. Of the approximately 1,200 students, more than 300 students participated in the survey. The youth leaders then analyzed the data. For the question asking students what prevented them from getting food during lunch, remembering their pin was actually not the biggest challenge identified. Then they met with the cafeteria manager to get a better understanding from the cafeteria staff. The cafeteria manager agreed that there should be another lunch line, but that they couldn’t hire another staff until more students were eating. This information then made the young folks revisit their campaign demands to include asks around both the quality and access of their food.

After meeting almost everyday during lunch and a few times a week after school, they were finally ready to have a second delegation with their principal. This time they had research that exposed the root of the issue that backed up their demands. It was not an easy delegation –  the principal wanted the youth to address these issues to the state and kept directing them to other people, but the youth leaders were great at re-grounding him on his role and how he could help. At the end, the youth leaders were able to secure 4 out of their 5 demands.  They were proud of themselves for improving their school’s lunch experience and helped me practice the skills gained through my fellowship.


Growing up I always wanted to be like my mentors who were community organizers. I still remember getting emotional when I read the job description to be a youth organizer with ICS. Some of my mentors from the community space were also organizers at ICS and would mentor me on the weekends. To be in a place where I can work with young people to help build their confidence, leadership skills, and organize to improve our community is such a blessing and full circle. I hope to continue this great work for future generations to come. Ometeotl.

Continue Reading No Comments

Campaign Spotlight: Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!)

Youth EmYES! photo 1powered Solutions (YES!), based out of North Carolina, hosts Erica Marshall one of the Healthy Communities III Fellows. YES! empowers youth, in partnership with adults, to create community change. They equip high school youth and their adult allies with the tools necessary to take a stand in their communities and create change that will positively impact adolescent health.

Healthy Communities III is a fellowship program connected to eight youth organizing groups in the West, South, Northeast and Southwest. Each group hosts a Healthy Communities Fellow who leads their school and community wellness work and connects it to state and national strategies for change including community education and engagement and policy development and implementation.

In our Campaign Spotlight, we learned from Erica and some of the young people from YES! about their current campaign, which aims support unlimited access to safe and affordable drinking water in schools.

What is your campaign goal for a healthier school environment?

We would like to propose a policy that supports unlimited access to safe, affordable, and palatable drinking water during all times of the school day, and after school hours. Initially we thought that this policy change would be in the wellness policy, but now we are thinking it would also be beneficial to amend the student code of conduct to make sure there are not rules that support restricted access to water.

Why did you choose this as your campaign goal?

Survey results from research conducted by youth and staff at YES!

Survey results from research conducted by youth and staff at YES!

For the first time in ten years, the school wellness policy has been updated; however, it does not include language supporting water access. Graduated and current youth staff created a student survey asked youth in schools about their thoughts on the quality and accessibility of water at their schools. They found that most students do have some access to water throughout the school day, but not all of them have money to purchase water in the cafeteria and they agree that bottled water should be free.

What strategies are you using to reach your campaign goal?

Our main strategy for the year has been to build a base of community support through the local health department and local groups that support child nutrition. As the new youth have gone through orientation since being hired, they express a desire to be as involved as possible in our partnership with the youth department. We are currently working on scheduling a meeting with the leader of the I Heart Water initiative with the youth staff for them to give her their insight based on their experience in CMS as well as discuss more effective ways to engage CMS high school aged students.

What role are young people playing in this campaign?

The youth played a significant role in looking through the environmental scan to make sure all of the questions seemed useful and made sense. They have also been researching past issues with water in the local community and around the state to see if it is common for marginalized communities to have restricted water access in their neighborhoods and in their schools.

What are some of the challenges of this campaign and how are you addressing them?

The school administrators and the Department of Environmental Safety have been opposed to the campaign. Their main concern is that we may give them bad publicity if it is discovered that the quality of water in the schools we scan are not up to par with the state requirements. Due to the concerns, our main focus has been on water access in our discussions about the campaign.

There was recently a report released through the Charlotte Observer that revealed at least 27 elementary schools have a dangerous amount of lead in their pipes which could contaminate the water. Although they claim they are replacing those pipes and testing more schools (prioritizing older schools), this shows the YES! team that quality is still a potential issue, which is why we should work to improve access, hopefully through advocating for the funding of more hydration stations.

Reflections from young people:

“It is important before you even start to start making changes to check restrictions already put in place in the student code of conduct. It is so important to have youth involved because it directly affects the youth so they should have a equal voice or a more powerful voice with this specific topic. It is also important to get us directly involved by doing things such as the environmental scan where we went to a local high school and made sure the fountains were in maintenance and clean in high populated areas. What I learned from this campaign involving young people is that we as youth can make huge changes especially in environments mostly populated by youth and also makes more people want to get involved seeing that even youth can do it.”

– Mason, 15

“This water access campaign has highlighted a lot of problems pertaining to students and their access to water throughout their time at school. While doing this campaign, I have learned a lot about the effect that water has on a students performance and the lack of water access in CMS schools. Before starting this campaign, I didn’t realize how important it was that students had water. I think that it is important to have young people involved in this specific campaign because we are the people being directly impacted. My hopes for this campaign is that we are able to pass a policy that ensures that all CMS students have access to free water bottles and are able to have and drink water whenever they want throughout the school day.”

– A’Niya, 16

“My experience with working on the water access campaign is opened my eyes to water accessibility in title one schools. I started realizing how water access can affect the way students learn and how they can get throughout the school day. I learned the importance of having water in your system during your school day and after. Every student having accessible water is a must for them to succeed.”

– Josh, 15

“Some of the main lessons I’ve learned from our campaign is that one make sure you have a complete plan thought out before you start anything you can’t just jump into an campaign you really have to think about it and really see what are you trying to change so that all plays a important part into your campaign. Overall, for this to be my first campaign I’ve truly just learned a lot about my community, my school system, and how to come up with an agenda that I have to follow through with.”

– Constance, 16

Continue Reading No Comments

Campaign Spotlight: Youth United for Change

Youth United for Change (YUC), based out of Philadelphia, PA, hosts Nick Ospa one of the Healthy Communities III Fellows. Youth United for Change (YUC) is a democratic organization primarily made up of working class youth of color, which builds the “people-” and political power to hold school officials and government accountable to guarantee the educational rights of Philadelphia public school students. YUC wins positive educational policy changes through school-and community-based organizing.

Healthy Communities III is a fellowship program connected to eight youth organizing groups in the West, South, Northeast and Southwest. Each group hosts a Healthy Communities Fellow who leads their school and community wellness work and connects it to state and national strategies for change including community education and engagement and policy development and implementation.

In our Campaign Spotlight, we learned from Nick and some of the young people at YUC about their current campaign, which aims to improve mental health structures in Philadelphia Public Schools:


YUC at the Schools Reform Commission Budget Hearing

YUC at the Schools Reform Commission Budget Hearing

What is your campaign goal for a healthier school environment?

Our new campaign initiative aims to improve mental health support structures within Philadelphia public schools. Our demands are:

  • We want the District to implement a mental health criteria towards creating a healthy schools baseline and a holistic healthy schools action plan and policy
  • We want to ensure that any school intervention,include an assessment & action plan for the mental health impacts on students and all school stakeholders prior to implementation
  • We want a designated mental health space in every school for students to de-stress when they need to – a number of schools in the District have already experimented with this practice
  • We want all schools to abide by mandatory testing maximums so no student has to deal with an uncapped amount of tests in a day
  • We want the District to conduct quarterly stress surveys for students to identify common stressors and give us more direction for action steps in order to lessen any unnecessary and unhealthy stress on students
  • We want every school to make transparent and simple access and rights to all mental health support services that are available to students (Main office, web profile, code of conduct)

Why did you choose this as your campaign goal?

This is best illustrated through some testimonies written and publicly delivered by YUC students involved in this campaign:

Brian Harrell testifying at the School Reform Commission Budget Hearing

Brian Harrell testifying at the School Reform Commission Budget Hearing

“As a student standing here not only for me but for many other students apart of YUC and not that feel their voice is not heard and school makes them feel small and hopeless, I would like to be that voice and hopefully one of the voices that lead to a change for all of us students. We have noticed that schools aren’t really set up as places that help students develop to their fullest potential. The way the current school system is set up is extremely harmful to our mental health.

Currently the tone in schools is overly demanding. For example, in my school I notice that many teachers give high value projects and give all of them the same time span to be done. Why are teachers giving such stressful deadlines which lead to students mental health being negatively affected. It makes students feel small and disconnected from everyone around them and frankly, it feels like no one that can do anything about it really cares. People in power see kids speaking out as whining, but in reality, we just want to improve a common thing that affects all students, which is the unsupportive and toxic mental health culture in schools.”

-Brian Harrell

“Students are staying up until one in the morning to do projects. They’re skipping meals to do homework. They are unable to turn to support systems when they have familial problems because there are very little opportunities to build relationships with trusted adults in schools. Many kids, as well as adults, don’t feel comfortable going to a stranger when they are having an emotional crisis, but that is exactly what schools are telling students to do. There aren’t opportunities for students to develop a relationship with counselors. Friends of mine have even said that the only time they have gone to the counselors in the past three years of their high school career was just to get an SAT fee waiver, showing our testing culture has a higher priority than something we haven’t been talking about in schools: our mental health culture.

Mental Health doesn’t just concern people with depression or anxiety–those are mental illnesses. Mental Health affects everyone. It affects students and teachers, janitors and principles, parents, even counselors. I have it, and so do you. That’s why a mental health culture HAS to be implemented into schools. It’s daily impact on all of us is too big to ignore any longer.
And, frankly, City Council, I’m tired. I’m tired of my friends calling me in the middle of the night saying, “Help. I’m having an anxiety attack.” I’m tired of seeing my friends breakdown in front of me, but counselors not being available to them. I’m tired of excusing myself from class to cry in the school’s bathroom. I’m tired of hearing the words “I can’t take it. Why should I be going to school if it just makes me feel worthless.” School is supposed to open doors and give insight on life. So why does it instead make some students think they should take their life?”

-Yesenia Rodriguez

What strategies are you using to reach your campaign goal?

We launched an online photo campaign called the #AddressOurStress challenge where we asked young people to share photos of themselves with lists of the stress f actors affecting them at school.

We had 63 total student participants across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These participants included students from five other youth organizations including VietLead and Asian Americans United.

This photo campaign raised YUC’s social media presence, particularly on Instagram, which we had never used before – in the first week alone, we got about 100 new followers. From this, we were able to see who supports our campaign, which is an indication of our power.

YUC blog photo 5 YUC blog photo 4 YUC blog photo 3

What role are young people playing in this campaign?

Students were a part of the decision to embark on this campaign. Right now, the focus is delving into the content of mental health and allowing students to develop a deeper understanding of the what mental health is and what it means to them. Since it can mean many different things to different people, students have developed an organizational definition so we all have a shared understanding of what we are referring to. They define mental health as the ability to react to internal and external circumstances through our emotions, thoughts, and actions in order to maintain a healthy well-being.

They will continue to build up their expertise on the subject through group discussion, research, and meeting with experts, allies and decision makers.

Students have taken the lead delivering public testimonies at the City Council School District Budget Hearing and the School Reform Commission Budget Hearing.

Over the summer, students put together a presentation for principals on our campaign platform in information sessions. There was more interest from principals than could attend the sessions so we are going to make some one on one visits with principals as our next step. We hope to incorporate the feedback we receive from principals into making our campaign demands stronger while also leveraging their support to the school district. Another possibility is getting a couple of schools to pilot a mental health program using all of our platform items.

“We need more than just more counselors. We instead need solutions that get down to the roots of the problem – the damaging mental health culture in schools and not simply someone to try to clean up the problem once it’s already happened.”
-Brian Harrell

What are some of the challenges of this campaign and how are you addressing them?

We imagine we may be up against a culture of stigmatization that still exists. This may mean that some of the very people we are trying to organize are opposed to engaging into dialogue about mental health. It’s also going to be a challenge to shift the narrative around mental health to a narrow focus on mental illness and disorders and not the nuanced way that mental health is a status that everyone has and one that flows on a spectrum We will need to convince decision makers that investments in a proactive mental health culture is as important as support services for those who are struggling the most. Most of all, we are going to have to find a will from all school officials, administrators, and staff to do things differently than they have always been done in order to upend the aspects of standard school culture that are inherently antithetical to maintaining an environment that is proactively conscious and cultivating positive mental health.

Continue Reading No Comments

A RYSE Youth Member Shares Her Experience in Youth Participatory Action Research

RYSE Center, based out of Richmond, CA, hosts Brian Villa, one of the Healthy Communities III Fellows. RYSE creates safe spaces grounded in social justice for young people to love, learn, educate, heal, and transform lives and communities. Their programs include Youth Organizing, Community Health, Education + Justice and Media, Arts + Culture.

Healthy Communities III is a fellowship program connected to eight youth organizing groups in the West, South, Northeast and Southwest. Each group hosts a Healthy Communities Fellow who leads their school and community wellness work and connects it to state and national strategies for change including community education and engagement and policy development and implementation.

Brian worked with Dashia, a young person in RYSE’s program, to share her story and research on the Youth Participatory Action Research project they conducted to understand violence/bullying based on gender and sexuality. One of the Healthy Communities III priorities is healthy school climates, and campaigns that support the social  and emotional health of students:

MDashiay name is Dashia and I am a RYSE youth member, a Public Health intern, and Richmond Air Quality Initiative intern. Through my Public Health internship, my co-interns and I conducted a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project on gender and sexual based violence. We surveyed around 100 local students and held interviews and focus groups to understand how youth experience violence/bullying based on their gender and sexuality, and to create safer spaces.

My favorite part about the RYSE programs I am involved with is just being able to do good for my community. I enjoy doing things that I know will have a direct effect on the community I live in. My favorite experience with the Public Health Internship would have to be speaking at the National Conference of Health and Domestic Violence in San Francisco. I was proud of the fact that I could speak at a national conference with different nurses, doctors, grad students, and service providers. It made me feel special because I was one of the youngest representatives on the panel and I was able to inform everyone on the research I conducted.

To me, youth power is when youth come together to uplift each other and fight for what we believe is right. It is when we learn to recognize our own voices and understand that we can make change in our community. At RYSE, we see youth power in every direction.

RYSE is filled with youth who are passionate and wise. Youth Power in RYSE is knowing that we have a voice and how to use it. Youth power shows up by simply claiming RYSE as their safe place where they are free to express themselves. Throughout my internships RYSE has helped me find my youth power. RYSE exposed me to something new and allowed me to find my passion in social and environmental justice. They also taught me how to be more confident in my ideas and more comfortable with speaking in front of adults.

Dashia’s Interview with RYSE on the YPAR Public Health Internship20170929_091551 (1)

How did you initially feel about the internship and Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project?

Dashia: Initially, I wasn’t interested that much in YPAR. I joined an internship over the summer because I wanted to get paid. I expected it to be boring and extremely complicated. It was something that I thought I wouldn’t enjoy that much. However, throughout the YPAR process, I became more interested and even grew a love for it. I loved the fact that my project related to my community and myself. I was able to shed light to a problem and suggest ways to solve it.

What information/workshop/presentation stood out most during your preparation?

Dashia: A workshop that stood out the most to me was the cycle of violence.  We talked about how everyone is born with the same basic needs. When babies grow up without these basic needs, it affects their health outcomes and how they navigate the world.  

Describe your experiences creating surveys, and conducting focus groups/interview? How did it feel gathering data from youth in your community?

Dashia: For our quantitative research strategies, we chose to do surveys. Creating the surveys was difficult. We had brainstormed many questions and it was challenging to word and order them in the right way without creating bias. We also conducted qualitative focus groups as part of our action plan. We were able to have deeper conversations about people’s experiences with gender based violence.

How did the data findings impact you?

Dashia: When we analyzed our data, I was not surprised at the results but it still moved me. Only 40% of female identified participants said they felt safe based on their gender compared to 90% of male identified participants. This moved me because I could relate to the data. I knew that I didn’t feel safe based on my gender, however, I didn’t know that the people around me felt the same. It made me look at my community in a different lens because I realized that it wasn’t a personal problem but it was a community problem. I am able to see that as a community we need to come together and fight against gender based violence and help the youth heal.

What action plans did you initiate based on your data findings?

Dashia: Our action plan included presenting to local organizations, facilitating focus groups and launching a social media campaign with our findings. Presenting our findings was an empowering experience. It was very rewarding because I was able to inform people on research that hasn’t been done in our community. I felt proud of our findings because I know that it can bring attention to an ongoing issue. I felt that allowing people to see the issues will encourage them to do something about it.

What was the most rewarding experience during the project?

Dashia: YPAR is not just a project to me. It is a shift in your mindset. It allows you to open your eyes and become aware of the challenges around you and the role you play in it. This process has reassured me on my career plans. I want to become a psychologist so I can help people who are experiencing problems in their personal lives, including gender based violence. I will use the skills I gained from my YPAR project for the rest of my life.


The following case study highlights the experience of Dashia Wright and her co-public health YPAR researchers. Their research topics, findings and testimonials summarize their inquiry and recommended responses to the interconnected issues of gender and sexual based violence/bullying and the use of drugs as a primary coping strategy for young people in Richmond.

YPAR on Gender and Sexual-Based Violence and Bullying
Conducted by: Dashia Wright, Paul Ruiz, Lily Boonnam

Topic: Gender and Sexual Based Violence and Bullying
Issue: Young people experience gender and sexual based violence/bullying in our community
Purpose: To understand how young people experience and are impacted by gender and sexual based violence. To create safer spaces and a culture of education and prevention
Research Question(s): How are young people impacted by gender and sexual based violence? What supports do young people need in order to feel safe?
Theoretical Frameworks: Youth researchers read articles on gender justice, intersectionality, and oppression.
Methodology: Mixed Methods Data Collection
Data Findings: Quantitative data was gathered from 130 Surveys conducted between June 2017 and August 2017. Qualitative data was gathered through 10 semi-structured interviews conducted between June 2017 and August 2017. Focus Groups were conducted as part of the action plan between October 2017 and November 2017


Interview and Focus Group Quotes

“Well it (gender violence) happens to girls all the time…in social media…girls who like girls are sexualized. For guys who like guys it’s wrong.”

“Gender violence is just an issue for gay people”

“There is a double standard in schools where girls are targeted more for how they dress”

“People are asleep. They are not woke. You see it (gender violence) all the time. You get on your phone you see it. You turn on the TV you see it. You walk on the street, you see it. People are looking but they are not trying to do anything. They think it doesn’t affect them.”

Data Recap: Analysis/Conclusion:

According to our surveys, about 80% of male-identified respondents felt safe based on their gender vs. 40% of female-identified respondents. Participants saw violence, bullying, and stereotypes based on gender and sexuality mainly in social media, schools, TV, and in their neighborhood. Majority of participants said they were only sometimes likely to step in when seeing gender violence. 76% of respondents answered 1-3; not familiar to somewhat familiar with gender based violence. Young people say that they see gender and sexual based violence everywhere, but they indicated that they generally feel safe. This shows that young people are normalizing gender violence. Most male-identified respondents of color indicated that they believe that gender justice was a “gay issue” and that they don’t have anything to do with it.  This reflects the data finding on how most young people indicated that they do not know or understand what gender violence is. Most straight male and female-identified students feel safer compared to LGBTQ students. Majority of female-identified youth believe that women are often targeted and sexualized. Students indicated that they need more education and workshops. They want to get involved, but don’t know how to. We need more opportunities and spaces to have conversations about gender based violence and bullying.

Action Plan:

Focus Groups: After analyzing the initial data, the public health interns decided to do focus groups with RYSE’s different identity groups in order to gather more information and to create more opportunities to have deeper conversations about gender based violence and gender justice. They created activities and discussion questions and facilitated their focus groups with RYSE’s young women’s group, young men’s group, and LGBTQQ group. After conducting the focus groups the interns concluded that they wanted to host a gender caucus between the groups and have a deeper dialogue.

Social Media Campaign/PSA: The data findings indicated that youth mostly see gender and sexual based violence on social media. One way the interns wanted to address this issue was to start building a social media campaign/public service announcements to help spread awareness of gender-based violence and their research.

Presentations: The public health interns presented their research in numerous spaces including: National Conference for Health and Domestic Violence, DeAnza High School Health Academy Board Meeting, and the RYSE Center


Trainings/workshops for teachers, admin, and students on gender justice and how to address gender and sexual based violence with youth

  • Since a majority of students see stereotypes at school, we need more opportunities and events to educate each other and make schools more inclusive.
  • Support groups for young women, young men, and lgbtq students, connecting students with resources in school and organizations out of school.

Continue Reading No Comments

Press Release: Healthy Communities Phase III Launch

Youth for Healthy Schools activates youth of color to ensure every child grows up healthy

For Immediate Release

For Further Information:

Mόnica Cόrdova, FCYO Healthy Communities Program Director                           505-385-6590

Nijmie Dzurinko, Healthy Communities III Coach                                                    215-667-0066


HC Fellows

The Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) is excited to announce the launch of Healthy Communities III, Youth for Healthy Schools. Due to systemic inequities in their schools and communities, low-income young people of color are at a very high risk for obesity, chronic disease, high stress and other health-related issues that impede them from growing up healthy.  This initiative supports low-income young people and young people of color organizing to  address the root causes of these health challenges and to connect their local campaigns to statewide and national strategies. The third phase of Healthy Communities, will further advance the leadership of young people of color in advocating for the creation of healthy schools as a foundation for the improved physical, social and emotional health of students.

The foundation of the Healthy Communities III initiative is a fellowship program connected to eight host organizing groups across seven states. Each group hosts a Healthy Communities Fellow who leads their school and community wellness work and connects it to state and national strategies for change including community education and engagement, and policy development and implementation. Additionally, there are six partner organizations in five states who are leading campaigns to create healthy school environments . Through Healthy Communities III, all host and partner organizations receive peer support and technical assistance in the areas of policy, strategy, and communications.

Sandra Garcia, a fellow from Healthy Communities II, which just wrapped, secured 53 changes to the San Antonio school district food menu, including more fresh vegetables, whole grains, and vegetarian options. Sandra was working as the youth coordinator with Southwest Workers. “I have been able to grow an understanding that my background and my story are very important for connecting with youth and parents on a level where they understand the importance of healthy foods in the school and at home,” said Sandra. “The grant has given us the opportunity to deepen our relationship with food policy players.” The third phase of this initiative hopes to continue making impacts at the policy level to improve wellness in communities of color.

Please follow and friend us to keep up with the voices of young advocates, and solutions and opportunities for engagement from youth of color across the country.  Visit for updates.

On Facebook, please like us at Youth for Healthy Schools

On Twitter, please follow us @YoutHealSchools

On Instagram, please follow us  @Youth4HealthySchools

Healthy Communities Host and Partner Sites

Host Organizations and Fellows:

  1. Community Food Advocates, New York, NY; Fellow: Kristina Erskine
  2. FEEST Seattle, Seattle, WA; Fellow: Thuy-Mai Nguyen
  3. InnerCity Struggle, Los Angeles, CA; Fellow: Estefany Ines Garcia
  4. Padres y Jóvenes Unidos, Denver, CO; Fellow: Cinthia Suasti
  5. RYSE Center, Richmond, CA; Fellow: Brian Villa
  6. SouthWest Organizing Project, Albuquerque, NM; Fellow: Amanda Gallegos
  7. Youth Empowered Solutions (YES!), Raleigh, NC; Fellow: Erica Marshall
  8. Youth United for Change, Philadelphia, PA; Fellow: Nick Ospa

Partner Organizations:

  1. Little Village Environmental Justice Organization Chicago, Illinois
  2. Grow Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut
  3. F.R.E.S.H New London, New London Connecticut
  4. The SouthWest Worker’s Union, San Antonio, Texas
  5. The Baltimore Algebra Project, Baltimore, Maryland
  6. Providence Student Union, Providence, Rhode Island

About FCYO

Founded in 2000, the Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing (FCYO) is a dynamic collective of social justice funders and youth organizing practitioners dedicated to advancing youth organizing as a strategy for youth development and social change. FCYO’s mission is to increase resources to the field of youth organizing and promote the leadership of low-income young people and young people of color in social justice organizing.

About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve the health and health care of all Americans. We are striving to build a national culture of health that will enable all Americans to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit Follow the Foundation on Twitter at or on Facebook at



Continue Reading No Comments