Being Engaged and Taking Action
YE4C’s first editorial board was in place from February 2020 through June 2020. The group was made up of 10 young people from around the country. They helped organize and improve content for the YE4C website. They also created content for YE4C and gave feedback to federal agencies. We invited each editorial board member to reflect on their time with the editorial board and to tell us more about themselves and their hopes for the future.
Today’s Inspiring Story follows Alyssa Perez. She is a 19-year-old incoming junior from Sacramento, California. She has a deep passion for community engagement and outreach and hopes to make a change on a large-scale.
What made you interested in serving on the YE4C Editorial Board?
I was interested because the YE4C website balanced providing beneficial resources for young people and being a government website. The government is typically filled with older adults, but they are also trying to provide useful content for young people. This ‘challenging’ situation was interesting, so I wanted to be involved.
How did you get your role on the YE4C Editorial Board?
I was nominated by someone I used to work with. In high school, I was a sexual education intern at Planned Parenthood for a long time. The head of the peer educator program and I stayed connected after I finished working for them. She didn’t tell me about the nomination until after I had gotten the phone call about an interview.
What did you do on the YE4C Editorial Board and what was your favorite part?
I mainly started conversations and shared ideas about ways to help teens cope with the pandemic. I also worked on some other projects alongside other federal agencies and provided feedback on resources.
I really loved getting to hear from a diverse group of young people. All the Editorial Board members came from across the country. We were able to share our experiences, socioeconomic background, education, and cultural history. This variety provided insight into the wide range of young people and how we all overlap.
What does the term, “youth engaged for change” mean to you?
I love the mission behind YE4C because the phrase “youth engaged for change” means so much right now. It means really listening to and highlighting the voices of different groups of people. For example, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBTQ+ community, the poor, and women. It also means getting involved with community organizations or coordinating group initiatives. YE4C is a great platform the government can use to help teens do that. Their Inspiring Stories help share the work teens are already doing to change their communities. The Topics and Opportunities pages really focus on providing resources for different types of people in different stages of their lives. They can engage youth by providing information.
What major issues do you think teens are concerned about right now?
I think a lot of popular conversations focus on issues like missing graduation and prom, struggling with online learning, and self-isolating from friends. However, millions of young people who work in low-level jobs or in the service industry face bigger issues. For example, [many young people are experiencing] loss of income and/or COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. This income loss due to fewer work hours can be overwhelming for young people trying to feed, house, and support themselves or their families. And those aren’t the only things affecting youth today. For many of us, the events of the pandemic brought up a sense of uncertainty about our future and our world. And on top of all of that, we are also struggling to manage anxiety, depression, and anger.
What advice would you give to teens who need help coping with the pandemic?
There are many ways we can cope during this time. In general, we need to emphasize physical, mental, and emotional self-care. It has been important for me to connect with my family and friends by using technology. Exercise and sticking to a schedule have also helped keep me going. There are also a lot of methods people recommend. For example, at-home exercise, meditation, art, and cooking. These are mainly focused on a single person doing something. However, coping during the pandemic can also mean doing something on a bigger scale and maybe more meaningful.
Young people can channel their stress, anxiety, and helplessness into their community. Getting together to solve problems can empower youth and make them feel useful. It also plays a big part in creating the world these young people want to be [part of as] adults one day. This can be different for different people. For example, it could mean setting up community food pantries or organizing social media initiatives for political change. It could also mean young people simply educating themselves about topics they don’t understand. In my experience, knowledge and action can give people a sense of power and capability.