UC San Diego’s Refugee Health Unit recently created the Youth Leadership Council (YLC), composed of 10 young adult leaders from 9 different ethnic community based organizations involved in the San Diego Refugee Community Coalition. The council seeks to give a voice to the youth of underserved communities, and ensure that their needs are both heard and met. YLC members receive training in advocacy and programming, as well as opportunities to engage in system change activities. As of 2020, refugees accounted for roughly 27% of San Diego’s population. Of that number, about 50% are children. Their families frequently struggle with employment, English proficiency, household security and safety, and incomplete or inadequate healthcare. The YLC aims to assist with these issues by engaging youth in designing and participating in activities that will raise awareness about and address issues ongoing in their communities.
YLC members receive training on a variety of topics related to advocacy and engagement, including establishment of program priorities, community engagement strategies, and training related to specific areas of interest. As a link between underserved youth and the assistance they need, members strive to create innovative programming catering to the needs and issues that they observe. By aiding the younger members of the communities they are involved with, members do not just create a more tolerant, positive environment for youth, but relieve pressure from their families. Programs catering to issues such as isolation and food insecurity generate benefits for the security, comfort, and well-being of communities at large. The YLC is an opportunity for youth leaders to assess how to benefit the greatest number of people in the most effective ways possible, develop integral organizational and administrative skills, and foster a community of passionate, driven activists.