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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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4

Data, Surveys, and Research

Raymond Baxter gave a brief synopsis of the morning panels as “the history of young people as change makers and movement leaders” and a reorientation “to the many ways in which we as a society and as systems often fail to support our youth and nurture them in achieving their potential.” He also acknowledged the young people who spoke about their work and efforts “to transcend broken systems and transform the conditions for health, well-being, and equity” during the earlier panels.

Baxter then listed the themes that had emerged from the morning’s dialogue, which included understanding how young people see the world and the resources and support necessary for organizing around topics that matter to young people. He highlighted “how the institutions that are central to [young people’s] experience, in particular schools and work, so often fail them, even oppose them.” He also mentioned the discussion on the impact of parenting and interpersonal relations within a community and their contributions to developing “really transformative movements led by young people on the most important issues that we face as a society.”

PANEL INTRODUCTION

Baxter introduced Hanh Cao Yu, chief learning officer at the California Endowment. Yu shared some details about her background, explaining that hearing from Shawn Ginwright and Mónica Córdova brought back memories for her because she started at the Funders’ Collaborative for

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Youth Organizing about 30 years ago. Yu noted that she was part of a movement that began under Karen Pittman with youth development and included youth organizing led by the Funders’ Collaborative as well as youth-led evaluation. Yu discussed how she “felt alive” as a young researcher aligning herself with these movements due to her childhood background, having immigrated to the United States as a 7-year-old refugee fleeing war and feeling “completed stripped of my history, my community, my culture, and my language.” She mentioned how these circumstances led her to feel as though she could not make a strong impact “just in terms of my value in the society and the contributions that I had in the society.”

Yu also acknowledged her professional relationships with Shawn Ginwright through the Ford Foundation’s Youth Leadership Development Initiative as well as with Jonathan London and Kristen Zimmerman through Youth in Focus and with Milbrey McLaughlin through work on youth-led research at Stanford. She emphasized that these people worked to ensure that young people were truly centered in these movements. Research on youth organizing, she said, is “similar to experiential education, public education, community organizing, youth-led research and evaluation” in that it focuses on “creating ladders of responsibility and supporting young people to draw from progressively higher levels of organizational and community leadership, and thus it lays the foundation for them to be indigenous leaders within their communities.”

Yu then offered several topics, such as the benefits from youth engagement and its impact on identity formation, critical consciousness, and creative approaches to community solutions, for the audience to reflect on during the panel discussion. She also spoke about how, at a basic level, this process develops individual-level skills and knowledge, including young people’s research, analytical, and writing skills, which in turn equip them to be agents of change, and that at a higher level young people’s involvement helps everyone understand challenges, priorities, and what strategies are needed to address youth and community needs (see Figure 4-1). She concluded these recommended topics by recognizing efforts to include young people at leadership levels, through building their civic leadership, experience, and social capital, creating a new generation of researchers and leaders.

Yu then introduced the speakers that would be involved in the panel discussion. First, she introduced Tammy Chang, who is the founding director of MyVoice and who joined the discussion via Zoom, along with Chang’s young colleague Elena Padley, who is a high school student from Cleveland, Ohio. Next, Yu introduced Veronica Terriquez, a professor of sociology and the director of the Chicano Studies Research Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), whose research focuses on

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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FIGURE 4-1 Youth-led research, evaluation, and planning outcomes.
SOURCE: Yu presentation, September 19, 2022; London et al. (2003). Used with permission.
Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

youth-led research and evaluation and who has partnered with Yu for 10 years while developing the initiative Building Healthier Communities.1 Yu also introduced Terriquez’s young colleague, Kahlila Williams, an undergraduate student at UCLA who joined the discussion virtually over Zoom. Highlights from the panel are provided in Box 4-1.

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1 See https://dornsife.usc.edu/eri/publications/bhc-youth-leadership-organizing/ (accessed January 17, 2024).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

THE MYVOICE INITIATIVE

Yu invited Chang and Padley from MyVoice to begin the discussion by providing further details on MyVoice and the benefits Padley is deriving from her involvement in youth leadership with this platform. First, Chang introduced herself and discussed her experience as a family physician with the University of Michigan and as the director of MyVoice, which she said functions as “a national poll of youth.” Chang said that “MyVoice is a nationwide text message poll that empowers young people to voice their opinion on important policy issues.” She explained that MyVoice functions by contacting approximately 1,000 youths across the United States on a weekly basis and asking four to five open-ended questions via text messaging. She also stated that the participating youths are monetarily compensated, the service has an 80 percent weekly response rate, and the goal of MyVoice is “to transform the way that research impacts policy by elevating youth voice in real time.”

Chang said that cell phones are valuable in this type of research because “it’s real time, it’s very inexpensive to use, and, most importantly, we’re able to reach youth that we consider typically invisible to research and policy makers.” She added that they wanted to provide a means for “all types of youth to participate,” even those who would not join traditional avenues such as panels, focus groups, or youth advisory councils. Chang explained that the process to participate in MyVoice begins with identifying an issue (often via youth collaborators), followed by distributing the relevant text message surveys, and then analyzing the resultant data using qualitative and mixed methods. She acknowledged that their system of contacting 1,000 young people weekly with four to five open-ended questions has resulted in large amounts of data which require processing. Chang continued by describing how, after the data have been collected and analyzed, the youth teams and researchers at all levels disseminate the “findings to those who hopefully can improve the health and well-being of youth by integrating their lived experiences.”

MyVoice is founded on a belief that “youth are critical in every step of this process” and seen “as experts of their own lived experience,” Chang said. She added that this requires researchers at MyVoice to ensure that their methods and technology are accessible to young people. Chang reiterated that youth collaborators are essential for MyVoice to function.

Next, Chang discussed the idea of “strategic science,” which ensures that the results from MyVoice can have an impact. She explained that “strategic science” is where “our science is not science for the sake of science” and that “it’s really about identifying change agents in whatever topic that we’re understanding, and then using this collaboration or relationship with our change agents to develop collaboratively the strategic questions.”

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

Chang emphasized that research and communication are equally important. At MyVoice, she said, “we talk about how the work really starts after a paper is written, or a brief is published.” Researchers at MyVoice have recognized this concept as “giving the right people the right information at the right time, to improve the health of young people.” Chang acknowledged that this concept is one of the more difficult but also “critically important” goals and priorities at MyVoice.

Chang also discussed the nearly 200 topics that MyVoice has included in its surveys to date, ranging from the coronavirus, masks, and social isolation to health behaviors such as diet, exercise, sleep, and drug use and from reproductive health issues and sexually transmitted diseases to LGBTQ issues and voting. She said that the topics are meant to be areas that young people should know about to make informed health decisions. Chang also invited any audience feedback for potential MyVoice survey topics. Chang then presented an image of a MyVoice text message exchange (Figure 4-2) and emphasized “that there’s not an app, there’s not a computer program” for their system. The goal of MyVoice has been “to seamlessly integrate into the everyday lives of young people as they’re texting the people in their lives.” From the responses to these questions, MyVoice has been able “to understand [respondents’] lived experiences, ideas, opinions, and perspectives.”

Chang also discussed the partnerships that MyVoice has formed with local and federal health agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities, and she praised the strength of their collaborations due to “[their] connection with young people, both on [their] team, but also in [their] panel.” Next, Chang reviewed the process of data dissemination, including academic dissemination, but going beyond that to “transfer the things that we find . . . at the conference table in our lab to the kitchen table of everyday people, so that they can understand what’s going on in the lives of youth in America today.”

Chang further discussed MyVoice’s influence on state and federal policy. First, she discussed a bill that is being developed in Massachusetts to “protect children from harmful diet pills and muscle-building supplements.”2 Chang noted that MyVoice was used to assess the youth opinion on this bill; it found that a majority of young people strongly favored the age restriction for these products. In addition, she added, MyVoice worked with the federal Tobacco 21 initiative3 before its passage to assess youth opinion on the policy and after its passage to evaluate its impact on young people. Chang also shared that MyVoice improved mental health access

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2 Massachusetts bill H. 4783 died in committee on December 31, 2022. https://www.billtrack50.com/BillDetail/1485101 (accessed April 12, 2023).

3 See https://tobacco21.org/ (accessed September 18, 2022).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Image
FIGURE 4-2 Screenshots of text messages between MyVoice and a respondent.
SOURCE: Chang presentation, September 22, 2022.

and support for young people in Washtenaw County, where MyVoice found that “the stigma around mental health among parents, teachers as well, is one of the . . . main barriers that young people feel.” She explained that Washtenaw County Public Health used this discovery to guide its campaign focused on youth mental health (Washtenaw County Michigan Health Department, 2022). In addition, Chang said, MyVoice has formerly engaged with two National Academies studies on efforts to include youth collaborators in events.4

Padley introduced herself as a high school student from Cleveland, Ohio, who had begun her work with MyVoice the previous summer. She said that the first project she was involved in assessed youth opinion on abortion access in light of changes to national policy and state-specific laws. This project was a learning experience, she said, that “made me

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4 See https://nap.nationalacademies.org/read/25388/chapter/1 (accessed November 3, 2023) and https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/25552/promoting-positive-adolescent-health-behaviors-and-outcomes-thriving-in-the (accessed November 3, 2023).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

realize how amazing and important it is to involve young people in research.”

Padley described how she found her opportunity with MyVoice because she was encouraged by her school to foster her interest in health care research and to find a mentor in the field. She noted that she was not eligible to work at her local hospital due to her age, but she was eligible to work with MyVoice. Padley explained that she had begun her work with MyVoice “with the intention of just learning what it’s like to participate in research,” adding that “it was so amazing that I was able to find a way to learn while also being able to make real change that affects people like me.” Padley said her progress at MyVoice started with learning about MyVoice’s purpose and impact from Chang, which was followed by an orientation with the specific inputs into the research and then her assignment to a team that was covering youth opinion on abortion. She also described the research questions her team developed for their assessments of youth opinion on abortion, which included “Where do you get your information about accessing abortions in your state?” and “Who in your life would you go to if someone you know needed support about getting an abortion?”

Detailing the research process further, Padley said that the questions are reviewed by different MyVoice teams, then the enrolled youth participants are sent the questions, youth responses are organized and analyzed to produce meaningful statistics, and, finally, decisions are made about what information is most important to include in a manuscript and disseminate. Padley said that she is now working with the research team to develop a manuscript using the research on youth opinion on the current abortion landscape, adding that “it’s been so cool to know that the research I’m helping to do is going to be published and make a real change.” She listed some of the main takeaways from the project, including information about “what resources young people need to feel like they can safely and easily access abortions” and “where young people are getting their information from about abortion access.” Padley described how she benefited from working with MyVoice, including gaining experience in every step of the research process. In addition to that experience, she said that she appreciated “how empowering it feels to be able to do something that has meaning and weight, because a lot of time with the things that are happening in our country now, youth don’t really have any say in what goes on, even though we are the people that it’s going to affect in the future.” She said that MyVoice works to give youth a voice both through sharing opinions via surveys and through the various youth collaborators working on the MyVoice research team.

Padley then reflected on how her youth perspective was helpful for the team’s research efforts because she could relate to the responses. She said she regularly gave feedback while finalizing the survey questions to

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

ensure that young people understood the type of information the research team was seeking. She concluded her remarks by expressing how grateful she feels for this opportunity and how excited she is to keep working with MyVoice longer term.

STUDENTSDESERVE—A YOUTH-LED ORGANIZATION IN LOS ANGELES

Yu then introduced the next speakers, Veronica Terriquez and Kahlila Williams. Terriquez introduced Williams as a youth activist who has grassroots youth-organizing experience through the group StudentsDeserve.5 She said that Williams led organizing efforts with StudentsDeserve to campaign to defund the system of school policing in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools. Terriquez stated that Williams would “speak to how young people use data and research to build power.”

Williams, now a college student at UCLA, said that she has been studying sociology and African American studies. She detailed her experience with StudentsDeserve, which she joined at the beginning of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic when she was a high school junior. She described StudentsDeserve as “a completely youth-led and Black-centered organization” that “works to make black lives matter in schools.”

Williams said that she thinks that the element of youth leadership within her organization is a distinguishing factor and that many other organizations simply “work with the youth, for the youth.” In contrast, she said, at StudentsDeserve, youth “are the leaders . . . the ones doing the hands-on work . . . the ones that are organizing.” She added that it is youth who are creating school chapters, presenting to school boards, and creating and advocating for plans for school districts to better support students from Black, Brown, and other disadvantaged communities.

Her initial work with StudentsDeserve, Williams said, focused on gathering resources and developing plans to help relieve stressors in minority communities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic6; however, she said, this planning quickly shifted after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, where some protestors called for defunding the police. She added that the occurrence of these protests “created a lot of upheaval from different sides of people who were supportive and some people who were not.” From this, she said, StudentsDeserve reassessed and chose to adjust their campaign

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5 See https://www.schoolslastudentsdeserve.com/who-are-we.html (accessed September 18, 2022).

6 See https://www.schoolslastudentsdeserve.com/covid-19-related-resources.html (accessed September 18, 2022).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

efforts to support their fellow coalition member, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.

Williams explained that many of the campaigns StudentsDeserve worked on were focused on the goal of reducing police funding and police presence in schools, but prior to 2020, it had never been the right time to advocate to defund school police. Due to the shift in political climate in 2020, she said, it became the appropriate time to begin the campaign to defund the Los Angeles Unified School Police Department. Williams explained that this began with StudentsDeserve conducting a survey of over 5,000 students enrolled at LAUSD schools to assess if students favored defunding the police and where students would want to apply the budget funds generated from defunding the police. This survey, conducted over the course of only 3 days, revealed that “Black students are three times as likely as white students to . . . report experiencing use of force by school police” and “two times as likely . . . to report being removed from class by school police.”

Other findings from this survey, according to Williams, included such student statements as, “I was sexually harassed, and the school police blamed me entirely”; “After reporting another student for sexual harassment and rape, the school police did nothing to help”; “The school police officer at my school made me feel so bad victim-blaming me”; and “The school police officer belittled me, made me feel small, as if reporting my incident was dumb.” She said that these statements are only a few of the many accounts reported through the survey, and she discussed how this survey also revealed information about Black students with intersectional identities, such as those who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community and those who are Muslim. From this survey, Williams and StudentsDeserve concluded that the efforts to defund the police had been recognized and desired by a large portion of the LAUSD student body, beyond those who were involved within their organization.

Furthermore, Williams said that 85 percent of current and former students surveyed who had interactions with school police reported them as negative.7 These experiences included “being followed, questioned, randomly searched, harassed, use of force, and racially profiled.” She said that the results of this survey indicated that the presence of school police was a concern. Williams emphasized that the Los Angeles Unified School District spent upwards of $70 million on the school police force,8 despite some schools not having counselors, full-time nurses, up-to-date

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7 https://ca.news.yahoo.com/high-school-students-police-dont-110107022.html (accessed April 12, 2023).

8 https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-09-18/proposed-cuts-to-lausd-school-police (accessed April 12, 2023).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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and undamaged textbooks, or even sufficient soap and toilet paper in school bathrooms.

Continuing with her story, Williams said that StudentsDeserve then presented the survey results to the school board alongside additional research from the Million Dollar Hoods project,9 which was conducted by UCLA and found that “Black students are 8 percent of LAUSD’s population; however, they’re 25 percent of school police interactions.” She said that they spoke to the school board and “were outside of the school board every Tuesday of June,” efforts that eventually resulted in the LAUSD school police budget being cut by $25 million. Williams said that these efforts were one of StudentsDeserve’s largest campaigns.

Williams continued by introducing student testimony from fellow student, Sierra Leone Anderson: “For too long, Black students at LAUSD have been overpoliced and under-resourced. We know that in order to really thrive, Black students and all students need care, not cops.” She also added a quote from her own speech given to the school board: “I want police out of schools because no Black or Brown student should have to go to school and worry about being targeted or criminalized.”

Elaborating on her reasons for joining StudentsDeserve, Williams said that her initial inspiration was learning that school police were authorized to use pepper spray on students, which she found “outrageous.” From there, she explained, she joined the discussion on the role and impact of school police and began to realize the effect that her experiences with school police had on her. For example, she referred to an experience she had while working in a school leadership position to organize the end-of-year school picnic. She said she was dehydrated and had been busy all day, and ultimately, she fainted. She explained that because the school did not have a full-time nurse, the school police officer was asked to assist. Williams said while her memory of the situation was limited, she does remember that when she regained consciousness, the first thing the school police officer interrogated her on was whether she had a history of drug abuse. When Williams said that she did not have a history of drug abuse, the officer’s response was, “I don’t believe you. I feel like you’re having a drug overdose right now.” Williams said that the school police officer’s questioning did not consider other reasons for fainting, such as not eating or drinking on a very hot day and delayed her ability to receive any medical attention.

Williams remarked that when she first joined StudentsDeserve, she felt validated in hearing similar testimonies from other students who had similarly negative experiences with school police. She said that from this experience, “I realized that I do have the opportunity to voice

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9 See https://milliondollarhoods.pre.ss.ucla.edu/ (accessed September 18, 2022).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

my concerns,” which then inspired her to speak to the school board. She discussed how as a member of StudentsDeserve, speaking to the school board “became a regular thing.” Williams and other members of StudentsDeserve would present research and personal experiences. She also said that “half of the members in [the LAUSD] school board have not been in school for over 30 years, so the only way that they can understand experiences is if they hear from us.” Williams credited StudentsDeserve’s victory to their presentation of research and statistics in conjunction with personal experiences where students spoke out about the abuse they experienced from school police officers. She emphasized the importance of the student perspective in this realm.

Williams concluded by summarizing how she got involved in StudentsDeserve and their continued campaign focused on defunding the LAUSD school police. She also mentioned that the funding that was removed from the LAUSD school police budget in 2020 was used to develop the Black Student Achievement Plan,10 which has received subsequent funding from the school board of over $100 million and “targets schools with high numbers of predominantly Black students so that we can make sure that we’re getting them resources such as counselors and nurses and psychiatric social workers.”

AN ACADEMIC PERSPECTIVE ON YOUTH ORGANIZING

Terriquez thanked both Padley and Williams for their remarks about “the importance of gathering data from youth and having young people help define what those questions are, because they’re living the everyday experiences.” Terriquez also praised youth organizers’ skills in “gathering data from their peers” and how they are “trustworthy messengers, especially when they’re gathering data in their own communities.” She emphasized the importance of researchers engaging young people and appropriately recognizing them as research partners through compensation and co-authorship.

Terriquez described her experience as a youth organizer at Skyline High School in Oakland and also spoke about her academic career, where she has studied youth organizing for over a decade. In high school she engaged students in collecting surveys from their peers to open the One Land One People Center.11 From this experience, she said, she learned that the surveys needed to be “grounded in the needs of the students themselves,” alongside recognizing “the different funding streams that the school district, the

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10 See https://achieve.lausd.net/bsa (accessed September 18, 2022).

11 See https://skyline.ousd.org/students/students/olop-youth-center (accessed January 18, 2024).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

county, and the city could provide.” Terriquez emphasized the importance of providing youth with the infrastructure and training to write surveys as well as connect survey questions to potential resources. She praised youth-organizing groups, both in California and across the United States, for their success in helping “identify the needs of low-income young people of color based on the experiences of young people themselves and produc[ing] the numbers, the statistics, to show that the needs are widespread.”

Terriquez said that a key focus of the panel was “the link between these data and health.” She noted that a common theme from Williams’s and Padley’s presentations was “these spaces where young people are coming together to gather data to validate their own experiences, create cultures of engagement, cultures of health.” Furthermore, she said, “young people are learning to collectively process some of the things that they are going through” and that the process of data collection, which demonstrates that their experience is not an isolated one, “is a healing experience.”

Terriquez then discussed a common trend she has seen recently—grassroots youth-organizing groups being “very intentional about incorporating healing and self-care practices in the organizing work,” including “healing circles . . . self-care activities . . . activities that bring joy to young people.” She said that these activities have “been absent oftentimes in our underfunded schools and . . . very absent since the pandemic.” Terriquez mentioned that her research has shown the positive impact of these activities on developmental outcomes, with young people feeling more comfortable and confident with public speaking, managing meetings, and engaging and challenging adult stakeholders. She said that while they are not the only activities of youth-organizing groups, “the healing and self-care practices are central to broader leadership development and also building power,” and they also pave the way for what she described as political consciousness building or critical civics education. That can help young people understand how structures of economic and social inequality help explain the unfair conditions that they are experiencing.” She said that these activities have ensured that instead of blaming themselves, their families, or their own communities for the challenges they face, young people “have structural analyses that look at the ways in which class, gender, and sexual orientation shape power inequalities” as well as systems analyses and “an understanding of how systems can be changed.”

She contended that beyond critiquing the system, youth organizers must “learn how to effect change, how to analyze the policies, and how to make winnable demands,” including such things as knowing when to go to the school district versus the city council. She said that this education should include “understanding how the government systems and the policies . . . can be changed and leveraged to improve

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

the young people’s experience.” Terriquez also echoed comments from an earlier panelist that “it’s not just about protesting . . . [or] walking out of school,” adding that “it’s also about writing that policy and making those specific demands.” She said that “understanding structures is something that adolescents have the capacity to do, and they also have the capacity to think about how to shift those structures so that they’re more accountable to the needs of their community.”

Terriquez concluded her remarks by discussing data showing growing economic inequality that was exacerbated during the pandemic, the “death and health suffering” occurring in U.S. communities, worsening mental health outcomes, resulting in a mental health crisis, and that “people are in a lot of pain right now.” She said that more data need to be produced to recognize what interventions are having positive effects so that they can be further scaled and also that more support needs to be provided to those interventions and that relevant stakeholders such as service providers and educators should be provided with what they need to “build up those systems and really imagine something different that could really truly address the needs of young people from the most marginalized communities.”

Yu thanked Terriquez for her contribution to the discussion and complimented the powerful and detailed research presentations of the youth speakers, Padley and Williams. She noted that the youth speakers “didn’t shy away from the really difficult topics, from abortion to police defunding.”

QUESTIONS FOR YOUTH SPEAKERS

Yu asked Padley and Williams to reflect on what difference it made that they, instead of their adult colleagues, selected the topics, performed the research, reached out to young people, conducted the sense making, and communicated to effect change.

Padley acknowledged the benefits she received from her research experience with MyVoice, highlighting the value of not only learning how research is done but also getting to read open-ended responses firsthand. She said that statistics do not paint a full picture and that her contribution helping develop “the full picture of how people are framing the [open-ended] responses” and being “able to see just how people [her] age are being personally affected by what’s going on with abortion policy changes” made her feel like a valuable asset to the team since she was “being trusted with such an important action that pretty much determined the entire project.”

Williams restated the importance of ensuring that youth are centered in the research done to support their movements. She emphasized that the youth involvement is not simply “the youth are at the face of our

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

campaigns” and “slap[ping] their face on a poster and . . . [saying] I’m working for the youth,” but that it extends to “actually giving them the tools and the steps to be a part of the work and making sure that they’re actually engaging in the work that you’re doing.” She said that it is important to help youth build the skill sets necessary to complete research to improve future outcomes to ensure “that they’re included in what that future looks like.” Yu emphasized Williams’s point that “youth have to be a central part of this and not an afterthought or as a subject of study.”

SUSTAINABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY OF MOVEMENTS

Yu wondered aloud, “What does it take for us to scale up [movements in youth organizing] and be systematic about creating an infrastructure to support youth-led research and evaluation?” since currently what she sees “is still one program, one initiative at a time.” Yu then asked the entire panel, “What would be your recommendations to make sure that we build something that’s sustainable and accessible to all young people and not just a small handful?”

Chang said that when training the fellows and junior researchers at MyVoice, staff discuss “filling the pipeline in MyVoice.” She said that MyVoice’s usage of youth collaborators has the additional effect of showing “traditionally trained researchers that involving youth doesn’t have to be a special thing or a difficult thing or extra work.” She added that there are barriers in university research settings for involving youth, but that these barriers can be overcome so that researchers can benefit from youth collaboration and “actually understand what youth are going through” because otherwise they “could totally misinterpret what young people are saying.”

Chang underscored the importance of showing other researchers that it is possible to both improve the quality of the work and have more fun by engaging youth collaborators. She added that she “feels like sometimes we downplay the joy that should be embedded in all the work that we do, and it shows in the passion that Kahlila shows and the deep passionate interest that Elena has invested so much time,” which is important because “it’s tedious work” that requires persistence. Chang emphasized the need to show people that young people are powerful and capable of doing the work, as long as there is openness to their involvement. She added that “us being an example and training other researchers to do it this way . . . [is] to me the most authentic way, because . . . there’s just too many different ways to do it” for there to be a mass-produced model. Chang concluded by restating the importance of researchers involving young people at every step in order “to do good science related to anything having to do with young people.”

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

Williams responded with a youth perspective. She emphasized the need to “do what you say,” adding that “if you say you’re going to include youth in the work, then do that, because that’s the most important part.” She then elaborated on what it means to teach youth in this process: “It doesn’t mean belittling them. It doesn’t mean undermining their opinion or their voices or anything, because that’s often something that happens.”

Williams characterized this as “one of the biggest obstacles we see” because “a lot of the adults are, one, scared to push past the normal narrative, and two, they always talk about, ‘Oh, well, you’re so young, what do you really know?’” She emphasized that it is important for adults to avoid relying exclusively on their own knowledge and resources and to be ready to learn from young people. Williams added that researchers should also make it a priority to ensure that students are learning effectively, that they feel heard and capable of doing this work, and that they have a central role in the work as opposed to “trying to take over their voice or just use their opinion and not giving them credit for it.”

Padley responded by saying that she was introduced to scientific research through MyVoice via an opportunity from her school. She praised her school’s programming where students complete internships and then hold a symposium where they present posters, akin to a professional research setting. She said that this type of program should be expanded to other schools so that students can be introduced to real-world research settings and a variety of possible research topics.

Terriquez began her response by saying that youth organize in groups like StudentsDeserve, CURYJ, and MyVoice because the nonprofit sector now has a main role in using their resources to address the needs of young people. She said that these resources used to be in safety nets, which have been defunded. She suggested that “we need to figure out how to institutionalize the best practices of these [nonprofit] programs in our safety nets that we have to reinvest in, again” and to create government-funded programs “that really train young people to conduct data collection, to organize, to be civically engaged, to have voices in their own communities.” She concluded by emphasizing the importance of government accountability so that these programs and systems can be expanded to actually reach the majority of young people.

Yu noted Terriquez’s experience, which involved “the turnover of leadership in a lot of nonprofits so that some of the youth researchers have more tenure than the staff.” Terriquez emphasized the importance of appropriately funding and staffing organizations among all sectors that serve young people—not just nonprofits, but also schools and other government-based institutions—so “that we have jobs for people where they can earn a living wage and raise a family,” thus improving continuity among the adults supporting the youth.

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

DISCUSSION

Yu then opened the floor for audience questions and began with the questions submitted by virtual attendees. The first question was whether MyVoice planned to survey youth about climate change.

Chang answered that MyVoice has conducted surveys that relate to climate change in a variety of contexts. For example, when young people have been surveyed through MyVoice about their main concerns, climate change is a common response. She added that mental health is also a common response and that “what we [at MyVoice] try to do is say the job of youth isn’t necessarily to change the policies, but [that] giving them an outlet to be able to say these are the things that are worrying me, and this is why it’s worrying me” helps elucidate youth priorities and actions.

Chang continued by saying that one of the challenges relating to climate change is that it is “one of those issues among young people that has no easy answer.” She elaborated on common responses to climate change questions, which have included “I don’t litter” and “I recycle,” and she acknowledged that there is a gap between the youth responses and evidence-based climate change interventions “like consuming less and the different contributors to climate change.” She concluded by saying that there are plenty of responses that regularly come from MyVoice surveys and the research team, but “there’s a lot more questions that come up and issues and problems that we realize exist among young people.”

Yu thanked Chang for her response and acknowledged that climate change is “really top of mind for our young generation in terms of the planet we are inheriting to them, and it feels very real.”

The next two questions came from Phyllis Meadows, a senior fellow with the Kresge Foundation. First, Meadows asked Padley about the results of the study she had been working on that assesses how young people learn about access to abortion services. Padley answered that the majority of young people reported finding information about abortion through social media and that many also mentioned Planned Parenthood. She said that “news” with no further elaboration was a response and that “a surprisingly large amount of people just said, ‘I don’t have anywhere I get information from, I just hear it from people I know.’” Padley said that the latter response was surprising to her since abortion is currently such a relevant concern for young people and that they “just don’t have a direct easy way to access information.”

Next, Meadows asked Williams what advice she could give for advancing a tough agenda and what she has learned about the process. Williams said, “If you have an agenda that you want to move forth and you know that it’s not easy or you know that it’s not something that everyone’s going to agree on, just recognize that.” She added that per-

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

sistence is necessary in combination with relying on the people “that are supporting you and us[ing] them as your resources” as well as “continu[ing] to reassess [the] agenda.” Williams reiterated that the goal of StudentsDeserve was always to remove police from schools but that they had to be persistent and patient, waiting for the appropriate political climate because there “is always a time and a place.” She said that what they accomplished needed to be catalyzed by the “nationwide uprising” in 2020. “When there’s a lot of uprising, and there’s a lot of upheaval of getting change done,” she said, “that’s the best time to push forth your political agenda, as long as you’re persistent with it and you constantly reassess it” to see if there is anything to add, subtract, or change. She concluded her response by restating the importance of persistence in advocacy, especially because this kind of work does not happen overnight and can take months, years, or even decades.

Yu praised Williams for her wisdom and patience in her advocacy work and for her comments about understanding when the political landscape is right for her agenda. George Galvis then posed the next set of questions.

Galvis opened by complimenting Padley and Williams on their work. He added to Williams’s discussion about landscape, saying that youth leadership and building the power of youth is so important: “centering youth leadership is so important, because young people are unapologetic, unbroken, and uncompromising about what the North Star is.” He added, “That’s why [Williams and her peers were] so prepared when 2020 came and that summer of racial reckoning, because of the research that [they] had already laid out to really be able to advance [their] agenda.”

The first question Galvis asked focused on how young people like Padley and Williams had agency and leadership roles in the process. He said he was curious about “youth-led research, evaluation, and planning and centering youth voice around decolonizing research” and the outcomes that would occur “if funders decide they want to start putting resources behind” that framework. Galvis said he is concerned that it may result in a “very watered down, co-opted version of youth engaged research” where there is no clear distinction between the truly youth-led research and research that includes youth only through surveys or focus groups. Ultimately, he asked the speakers to further detail what distinctions they would make between these types of research that involve youth.

In his second question, Galvis asked about the frequency with which community-based participatory research is used for youth-led research and observing that it is regularly conducted through a partnership with a more established institution or intermediary. He said that while he is grateful for these organizations supporting and facilitating these pro-

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

cesses, he is also curious to know, “Where are the efforts around building capacity of grassroots organizations to really be able to do this more in-house internally?”

Finally, for his third question and the last question of the panel discussion, Galvis referred to his experience leading projects with Youth in Focus,12 where, while he had “some of the dopest youth rep curriculum,” it was not necessarily actionable. He referred to Williams’s point about “the importance of actually translating research into praxis, making this applied research.” Directing his question at Chang and Terriquez, he asked, “In your own processes, where you’re facilitating and providing capacity building, technical assistance, coaching, to grassroots efforts, how do you incorporate that action component?”

Williams responded first. She reiterated the importance of “how we’re applying that research to pushing forth an agenda and actually getting things done” and contrasted it with other experiences where “a lot of times research is done, and it gets nowhere.” She continued by saying that to effect change in our communities, it is important for research to have an actionable target. She said that while other organizations are assisted by different institutions to complete their research, her organization remains independent because “when you do that, it gets very complicated.” She expressed concern that if her organization were to partner with an external institution, they would lose their ability to be a “youth-led, Black-centered organization” by putting adults “at the forefront of doing the work, maybe with just the youth faces on some of their campaigns.” Williams added, “If you’re truly about an agenda, you truly do what it takes to maintain that agenda” even if “it becomes more difficult, because it does mean a lot less funding in some cases.” Williams also said that there are other methods and sources for funding that do not require partnering with those who will change a group’s political agenda and the work they are doing.

Williams emphasized that “youth need to be at the center” and underscored that sentiment by saying, “They always say Gen Z is the generation that’s going to make the change because we’re bolder and we’re more confrontational and we don’t really compromise.” These qualities of the generation can be used to advance change, she said. In particular, Williams referred to her experiences with presenting to the LAUSD school board and how she and other alumni persistently show up for school board meetings to present their agenda “because that’s what we’re working towards.”

Referring to her concerns about external influences shifting the research and action agenda of an organization, Williams said that “it shows that we’re still persistent, and it shows that we’re still hard-work-

___________________

12 See https://youthinfocus.org/ (accessed September 18, 2022).

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

ing, so using that as a resource . . . if you want something to actually get done, why would you change that and have a different agenda in which people who maybe aren’t as hard-working and don’t really understand experiences and don’t really come from the same place that we do, are at the forefront of that work?” Williams concluded her answer by reiterating that maintaining a political agenda may be difficult, but it is not impossible. “The most important thing is making sure you’re staying with what your initial goal is and making sure that youth are centered.”

Padley responded to Galvis’s first question “about the distinction between just having youth involved and actually giving youth the agency to do the work that they’re involved in.” She explained that with youth-led research, youth should be leading the decision making and should be “given the space to share their ideas and actually do the work, instead of just sort of being a part, but not really integrated specifically into whatever project is going on.” She elaborated on the idea that if research is focused on youth, young people should be welcome to give their perspective and ideas as informed by their identities, and the perspective they provide should “really be utilized by researchers.”

Chang reiterated a point made by Williams, which is that when “studying young people, they must be . . . [not only] centered, but integrally involved in all the steps.” Chang said that when research is completed on youth without youth involvement, “it’s very difficult . . . to trust and understand what they’re doing is right.” She gave an example where MyVoice distributed a survey asking respondents for their questions about sex. They received a survey response asking about “mail birth control.” While Chang thought the response was focused on receiving birth control pills through the mail, the youth collaborators clarified that it was likely a misspelling, and the response was asking about birth control methods available for males. Chang emphasized that this situation was just one of many times where youth collaborators gave researchers at MyVoice better context and explanations for responses they had received from their surveys.

“That’s how we want to transform research about young people, to say it is expected, it is a standard,” Chang said. “You must have young people at the table, and even better, they must be the ones speaking about it.” She added that researchers must adequately prepare and provide expectations for youth-led research so that the necessary education can be provided for youth to succeed in these spaces. She also said that not all researchers will agree “that young people should be involved, but she invited people to look at how MyVoice operates and consider whether it could work in their contexts. She added that she and her team want to help others do this work. Chang praised Galvis for his “passion, energy, and . . . history of working with young people” and emphasized that all

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

participants in this workshop are needed “to make it standard, make it normal, and, dare I say it, make it cool, make it fun, for all people to have young people involved in all the things that we do.” Yu reiterated the need to be “uncompromising in having that norm and expectation [of] having youth at the center.”

Terriquez said it is important to ensure “we’re not just doing research for research’s sake.” She emphasized the importance of involving community-based organizations in study design so that researchers are asking questions that they may not think of when working in an academic bubble. She explained that the questions developed from literature review would likely differ from the questions developed through community collaborations. Terriquez said that there are different models for developing research through community collaborations, but that “what’s central here is making sure that the community partners and the researchers are on the same page about what the goals are for the research.”

Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×

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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
×
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Suggested Citation:"4 Data, Surveys, and Research." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2024. Exploring the Power of Youth Leadership in Creating Conditions for Health and Equity: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/27332.
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Young people often engage and lead efforts to improve the social, economic, and environmental factors that influence the health and equity of communities and the nation. The National Academies Roundtable on Population Health Improvement hosted a hybrid public workshop in September 2023 at The California Endowment Center for Healthy Communities in Oakland, California to discuss the power of youth leadership in creating conditions for health and equity and the civic infrastructure and resources that support youth participation and leadership in change efforts.

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