Natalie Kulick June 9, 2022

Youth Spotlight: Jaleyna Lawes

Jaleyna Lawes, member of CADCA’s National Youth Advisory Council (NYAC), will graduate this June from Charles W. Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida. This upcoming fall, Jaleyna will attend Yale University to study the History of Science, Medicine and Public Health. In this blog post, she shares how she was first introduced to the prevention field, her experience as an NYAC member and her future aspirations.

“Around 2016, I was looking for volunteer opportunities, which led me to start working with my local coalition, United Way. There was one instance where it really all came together for me. We participated in a PhotoVoice project with CADCA and were asked to visit our local neighborhoods and take pictures that communicate the issues present in our community. One of the things I noticed was the higher concentration of advertisements for substances in lower income areas, and that really drove me to commit myself more to the cause of prevention.”

In the fall of 2021, the NYAC was created to form a youth-adult partnership and train youth to speak on behalf of other youth. Jaleyna was selected to join as one of the founding members and has had opportunities to speak publicly at CADCA events, participate in innovative projects and work with prevention partners to amplify youth voices.

“I first heard about the NYAC not too long after last year’s 20th Annual Mid-Year Training Institute. I had really enjoyed the Applied Health Equity track I attended and got to meet a lot of the people that I work with now within the NYAC. At Mid-Year, I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk in a safe space, and I really felt that our perspectives and lived experiences were valued. When I saw that they were creating a council, it was a no brainer for me to apply.”

“At this year’s National Leadership Forum, myself and another NYAC member, had the opportunity to speak at the Cultural Exhibition about where culture meets prevention. It was both really cool and extremely nerve-racking, but it was honestly a great experience that pushed me outside of my comfort zone.”

“I do feel like my experience, with my local coalition and with the NYAC, has been influential. I tend to be soft-spoken and reserved, but at Forum, I had several opportunities to speak publicly. It’s really helped me come into my own and realize the power of my voice as an advocate and how to interact with other people and share perspectives. There were some really interesting sessions I attended where I was able to hear from youth that come from various backgrounds and geographic areas. I think these discussions and trainings gave me a more holistic view of prevention, versus just understanding the issues present in my local community.”

“I also learned that as a part of prevention, we consider the history of our communities when assessing what kind of resources are needed or how to best serve the community. After learning to factor in community history and the social determinants of health, it definitely influenced my choice of major, which will be focused on informed advocacy through an understanding of history to generate better sustainable solutions. I think working with the NYAC really gave me that perspective to know that history matters in such a way when it comes to prevention. In the future, I want to take what I’ve learned and continue using this lens of history to inform work in public health and global health.”

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