Our names are Ahad Mahmood (Left), Krishna Arunkumar (Right) and Suraj Paul (Middle) and we are the youth leadership team working with the Human Environments Analysis Laboratory (HEAL) to develop and implement a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) for the HEAL. The HEAL conducts research to create healthier communities in London, Ontario and surrounding areas with a focus on young people’s health. The HEAL believes that research should be for and with youth, not only on youth. In order to implement this principle, they decided to create a Youth Advisory Council for the lab. The idea is that youth perspectives are essential to ensuring that HEAL research has the best chance of improving the health and well-being of youth. It’s also a two-way street: youth advise HEAL projects and directions, and youth receive leadership experience and opportunities to learn about research. We are currently working to develop the model for our YAC in what we are calling a youth-driven planning.
We’re making steady progress. We have created a draft terms of reference which entails all the functions and goals of the YAC and the responsibilities of its members. We’ve met with various individuals who have given us unique insights into how we can develop a council that allows its members to feel included and heard. For our next steps, we are working on improving our terms of reference and contacting more individuals for advice and feedback on our ideas for the YAC. We hope to finish creating the plan for the YAC by May/June 2018 so it can be implemented in the fall.
In the summer of 2018, we plan to have an open meeting which will aim to attract the attention of youth who might be interested in our YAC. After gathering a team of about 10-14 individuals from high schools in and around London, Ontario, the YAC will be established. We hope to attract youth from different places, with different experiences, and various backgrounds so that our YAC benefits from diverse perspectives. There will be an application process which we are currently finalizing; however, candidates who aren’t selected for the YAC are encouraged to become involved in other volunteer opportunities at the HEAL. The team will work in tandem with the HEALab by sharing ideas and thoughts about different research projects going on around the lab.
If you have questions about our YAC development, or if you have advice to share, please contact our staff co-facilitator Dr. Stephanie Coen at email@example.com.