Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice

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Let’s Go! South Carolina: Initiative connects youth engagement with community coalitions

This article is the first in a series of articles focusing on the four objectives of the Let’s Go! South Carolina Community Initiative with BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation and the six participating counties: Anderson, Barnwell, Hampton, Kershaw, Laurens and York.

hype_objectiveEngaging youth through The Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project has been a successful strategy for communities, and it’s a strategy being implemented in the Let’s Go! South Carolina Community Initiative with some new components. HYPE teams will work closely with a community coach to connect each other’s work; adult advisors become members of the coalitions’ leadership teams; and HYPE teams will be supported to implement HYPE for more than one school year.

“One goal of HYPE has always been to connect HYPE teams to the work of the larger coalition. I’m excited about this new opportunity, because it allows us to be intentional and strategic about partnering,” said Trimease K. Carter, ESMMSC youth engagement manager. “We are hopeful that this local connection and the support of a community coach will help increase the capacity of both our HYPE teams and coalitions. We are already seeing signs of this.”

According to Carter, the community coaches are stepping in and providing the HYPE adult advisors with timeline guidance and making sure communities are ready for implementation.  She says, “Adult advisor involvement on the community coalition is connecting them to something bigger.  I see youth engagement in these communities as a natural fit, not an afterthought.”

In addition to the support of a community coach, HYPE adult advisors have a seat at the community coalition’s table. Their participation guarantees communication between youth and the community leaders. It also provides an opportunity for the community to witness and value the youth’s contribution in creating healthier communities.

Another new component is a multi-year focus on HYPE projects. Rather than the standard nine-month timeline, the youth commit to a multi-year project, which helps them  work more effectively on their projects, as well as select projects that need more time for implementation.

“South Carolina has many young people who want to become leaders and get involved in their community, but they may not know how to do that,” said Carter. “The HYPE Project gives them the knowledge, power, and confidence to make a difference in their community. Incorporating The HYPE Project with Let’s Go! South Carolina is a logical step that will give these youth even more confidence and experience.”

Currently, each Let’s Go! South Carolina community has recruited adult advisors and youth for their HYPE teams. Adult advisors will be trained on the HYPE curriculum, and they will return to their communities ready to teach youth about the change process.

Since 2012, The HYPE Project teaches middle and high school students how to make healthy change happen through advocacy. HYPE teams work with local government, school officials and other community leaders to build support for their project from beginning to implementation. The HYPE Project makes leaders out of youth and provides them with life skills to use for any type of change.