Our second cohort of youth for our NJHI Next Generation of Community Leaders project are a wonderful group. Calling themselves the Leaders of Promise as did the last cohort, these 10 young adults bonded well at the retreat at YMCA Camp Ockanickon. Having done that, they were well prepared to start meetings in October.
We started the first meeting of the year with a conversation on “What Community Health Means to Me.” We tracked the responses and broadened the discussion at our second meeting by considering the World Health Organization’s (WHO) definition of community health:
“Environmental, social, and economic resources to sustain emotional and physical well-being among people in ways that advance their aspirations and satisfy their needs in their unique environment”
Cross-checking the WHO definition with the ideas our youth shared, we encouraged them to think about possible projects that could be created to address our Delaware Gardens community’s economic, social, and environmental challenges that might impact the overall health of the community.
An interesting conversation occurred. The Leaders of Promise discussed how economic challenges impact the emotional well-being of residents because such challenges prevent families from accessing mental health counseling. In fact, they brought up the idea that group counseling should be mandatory starting at fifth grade.
“If everybody has to do [counseling], there won’t be a stigma attached to it. Kids will be comfortable talking about their problems,” said one of the youth.
We look forward to visiting our community partner, Hopeworks, to learn about how trauma impacts personal and community health. We are sure this learning will further shape the direction our Leaders are taking in developing a project for this July.