A major emphasis of the Youth Advisory Board is to help teens build competencies (interpersonal, leadership, employability, and academic skills) through education, decision-making, and mentorship. Members will have ongoing access to mentorship during their membership in the Youth Advisory Board. The Center's Youth Liaison and Community Liaison will always be available to youth via phone or e-mail to provide members with information related to health issues, academic interests or job pursuits.
In 2011 and 2012, the YCAB (Youth Community Advisory Board) members wanted to positively impact their communities by creating a tool to improve how teens cope with stress. Dealing with school work, extracurricular activities, preparing for college, and social pressures from friends and family were identified as significant stressors for teens. YCAB members learned how to recognize stress, how stress affects teens, and how teens can cope with stress in healthy ways. They also learned about asset mapping as a strategy for building healthier communities. They put their skills into practice by identifying strategies and resources for dealing with stress within themselves, their families, and their communities. Finally, they used all of their knowledge and enthusiasm to create a resource guide for other teens coping with stress.
The resource guide features background information on stress and how it relates to teens. The guide differentiates good and bad stressors, and it describes how bad stress can affect a person’s mood, body, relationships, school performance and other activities. The guide also includes maps of Santa Monica and Carson with community "assets,” where people can engage in stress-relieving activities. The teens highlighted parks, libraries, museums, shopping malls, and other sites of interest. In addition, they identified a number of online assets available to teens from any geographic community-- including mental health hotlines and websites relating to stress, healthy coping, and finding psychosocial support.
The YCAB members have distributed the resource guides to schools and community centers in Santa Monica, Carson, and other areas within Los Angeles. In fact, they have received more requests for distribution as word has spread about the resource guide. We hope that the guide will continue to be a beneficial resource to many teens around the County!
The 2009-2010 YCAB conducted a walkability assessment of Carson on January 30, 2010 to investigate how the built environment relates to opportunities for physical activity. To assess the walkability of Carson Street and the surrounding areas in the City of Carson, the YCAB members were trained to use the Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index (PEQI), which measures aspects of the pedestrian environment: intersection safety, traffic, street design, land use, and perceived safety. The YCAB also decided to incorparte an assessment of the eating establishments present along the walkability assessment routes, recording the number of fast food restaraunts, convenience stores, and markets along the way.
The YCAB analyzed the results of the walkability assessment and maps of Carson. Based on their analysis, the YCAB recommended the following actions: 1) more painted crosswalks, 2) more curb cuts at intersections, 3) graffiti cleanup, and 4) increased pedestrian lighting at night. The YCAB and their advisers presented the findings to Mayor Dear, the Carson City Council, and City Planners.
The overall PEQI score for Carson Street segments is shown in the figure below.
The 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 YCAB have been integrally involved in the design, development, and production of the SNaX League Video. The video will be used to introduce and garner excitement in LAUSD middle schools about the Center's Students for Nutrition and eXercise (SNaX) program. The YCAB members first suggested using a video to reach youth and suggested we don't make it like every over educational video they see in school. Their advice led to the creation of the SNaX League - a league of everyday students fighting for healthy food and exercise. The YCAB provided input on character development and casting, notes on the script, and feedback on the early cuts of the video itself. The process culminated in a screening of the SNaX League video at a YCAB meeting that included members of the cast and their families, production company, directors, writers, and producers.
In the spring of 2008, a subgroup of graduating YCAB members entered an international competition to create a product that would encourage youth to be more physically active. The YCAB team was selected as 1 of 56 semifinalists among over 400 entries from 37 countries around the world. The YCAB's product idea was called SHIFTEES, a wireless motion-sensor controller that can be used with existing games. Just strap SHIFTEES over your shoes to track your movements and give you control of a video game character. Plus you can customize your SHIFTEES to reflect your own personal style. The idea was a whole new way to play your favorite games!
In 2004 the members of our Youth Advisory Board participated in a real life research project called Teen Photovoice. This community-based participatory research project was designed and led by Jonathan Necheles, MD, MPH, a UCLA/RAND Center for Adolescent Health Promotion researcher. The thirteen high school participants from the Advisory Board were given brand new digital cameras and asked to capture images in their communities that they felt influenced their health behaviors.
During the course of six months the teens took thousands of pictures. At their biweekly meetings they shared their photographs and talked about common themes that arose. In the course of the project, two main themes developed: (1) Food and (2) Stress. Their photographs were used to develop a series of posters aimed at educating others about health issues in their communities. One of the posters the students designed showed that in their neighborhoods and schools unhealthy foods were more readily available than healthier choices. Another poster depicted images of major stress factors that affected their health, such as traffic, school, and pollution.
The Photovoice posters were presented as a special exhibit at the California Science Center Museum from July 27 through September 6, 2004, to the applause of parents, community members, and the local press. The posters were also reprinted and distributed around the students' neighborhoods in an effort to promote change. In honor of their tremendous effort in this research project, the Youth Advisory Board members were awarded framed Certificates of Participation and they received their digital cameras as gifts.