Josh Arias, Youth Coordinator at Community Partners, observed during multiple community meetings that the connection of dialogue between youth and adults was missing. Arias asked the Youth Advisory Board (YAB) if they would like to share their opinions and thoughts with local community leaders. The youth were excited about opportunities to have their voice in community work.

“My favorite part of my youth work is observing youth and adults working together to help solve problems in our community. I love seeing adults who want to work with youth and truly value their insight,” said Arias.

On Thursday April 8th, the YAB invited, Jesica Vickers from Live Well Counseling, to share with the youth about her work. The youth asked questions about therapy and learned about community resources which they can share with their peers. Vickers shared how she goes into schools to do counseling appointments with teens. She also shared about the process that patients go through when they first start receiving counseling.

The focus group discussed overcoming the stigma of therapy by learning about the process of counseling. “I wanted to meet with Jesica so I could hear more about what actually happens in therapy. I learned that more people actually go to therapy than I thought and it’s a normal thing for both adults and kids. My favorite part of the meeting was hearing the other kids in YAB talk about their therapy experiences or reasons why they were or weren’t in therapy. I felt comfortable after knowing people my age feel the way I feel,” said Mia Homan, Youth Advisory Board member.

Vickers received insight on how mental health is perceived by youth and what types of resources youth would like. She was also encouraged by the youth to start an Instagram account to spread awareness about her work. The youth shared with Vickers that they get their resources from platforms like Instagram.

“I truly value youth insight as it always guides me into the right direction I want my work to go,” said Vickers.

The Youth Advisory Board is continuing to host focus groups with community organizations this spring. “Adult/youth partnerships can have a great impact on our community. We want to have a space where youth feel heard and cared about by the adults in our community. These focus groups are a great start to fostering trust between youth and adults,” said Arias.

The Youth Advisory Board is a program and a philosophy that recognizes youth as valuable resource in their community and empowers them as equal community partners to bring about positive community change. Youth are selected from each of 9 schools within Buffalo County where they tackle a range of social problems that concern them from our economy and environment to safety, tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs.