Young Public Amplifies Youth Voices Online.
Young Public Amplifies Youth Voices Online
A group of SPH students is working with the West End House, a youth development organization in Boston, to empower youth to promote social justice and combat misinformation on social media.
In Fall 2021, a group of MPH students at the School of Public Health founded Young Public, an initiative that empowers youth to promote social justice and combat misinformation on social media.
Now, the group is working with students at the West End House, a youth development organization based in Allston, Mass., to bring this work to life. The group is working with the organization’s Making Change Crew (MCC), a program designed to amplify the voices of teenagers who want to be social justice changemakers.
“I’m always really inspired by the passion and commitment that the students we are working with have for this work,” says Maria Tjilos, who is spearheading the project. “High schoolers often fall into this trap of adults thinking they are too young to know how things work in the real world, but this group of students break this stereotype week to week. I always leave our sessions feeling inspired in new ways. I feel very lucky that we are able to do this work with them.”
The Young Public team holds weekly, one-hour workshops with the MCC students, where they discuss a range of topics selected by the students, including antiracism, sexual orientation and gender identities, intersectionality, and mental health. The team starts each session by showing a series of videos on each topic to spark a discussion about how the topic aligns with social justice and advocacy work. They also provide a number of resources for the students to dive deeper into the topic and learn more. Each session ends with a discussion about how the topic is discussed online. The team shows several social media posts to the students, identifying components—both visual and written—that make up an engaging, well-researched post and what the students would want to add to or change about the conversation among their peers.
“We’ve really tried to make these workshops engaging for the students by not just talking at them, but really encouraging their participation and perspectives on each topic,” says alum Indigo Kirsh (SPH’21), a Young Public team member. “Young people are often left out of these larger conversations about health and social justice, so we really want to make them feel heard and valued because they are the experts when it comes to communicating with their peers.”
The team also works with the students one-on-one to develop their own social media posts on topics of their choosing to post on the Young Public Instagram page. They support the students in creating engaging, evidence-based images, as well as finding resources to include to help point people to additional information.
Gretchen Weaver, a Young Public team member, says that this process has been rewarding for both the team and the students because it has allowed for a lot of open discussion about the interests and concerns of young people, as well as how to communicate evidence-based health information both meaningfully and concisely online.
Young Public was initially supported by a Social Impact and Innovation Award from idea hub and Innovate@BU, which provided them with a year-long mentorship experience and $500 to get their project off of the ground. The team has continued to work with Innovate@BU on the project, and hopes to secure additional funding for up to one year after several of the team members graduate this May. To support this effort, the team has also been conducting informational interviews with other organizations and leaders engaging with youth across Boston to help flesh out their organizational design and make the initiative as sustainable as possible.
Throughout their time working on the project, the team also partnered with SPH faculty members Sarah Lipson, assistant professor of health law, policy & management, and Allegra Gordon, assistant professor of community health sciences, to help narrow down the scope of their work and plan their goals and objectives.
“We have had incredible support from so many people throughout the development and implementation of this project, particularly from the folks at the West End House” says Haley Piette, a Young Public team member. “We could not have done this without their support and partnership over the last semester. They truly have been great to work with.”
Carleen Colin, the manager of MCC and a career development and employment specialist at the West End House, says that her time working with the Young Public team has helped to uplift MCC’s mission while broadening the students’ minds to new ideas. “Young Public has given our students the ability to speak more life into the advocacy work we are aiming to encourage through MCC,” she says. “The Young Public team continues to prioritize building relationships with our youth and staff, and they truly amaze me each and every week.”
The Young Public team hopes to continue running their workshops with MCC over the summer. Learn more about their work and hear directly from the youth they are working with by following their Instagram page.
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