This past month, Bayside Community Center began its inaugural Youth Resident Leadership Academy (RLA). The RLA program includes ten students 9th-11th grade from Kearny High School and Francis Parker School. Over the past month, students have been learning about healthy food systems, active transportation, walkability, and health determinants.
One of their first activities was called “Grocery Store Bingo.” Students walked to the nearby grocery store, where students completed a Bingo card with a list of healthy and unhealthy items. Next to the food item, they listed the price and compared the cost of healthy foods and drinks to unhealthy ones. The students talked about how the cost of food affects what individuals and families buy. While discussing and experiencing the food system, students were asked to reflect on their own food choices. One student shared that he used to eat his mom’s home cooked meals but because of his responsibilities before and after school, he eats more fast food because it’s convenient. The RLA curriculum focuses on social and environmental determinants of health, not simply individual choices. Students agreed that their choices are largely based on the environment and convenience of food offered.
On another occasion, Circulate San Diego joined the youth RLA for a walkability workshop where students learned how to use the “Best Walk” app to rate the safety, beauty and accessibility of a nearby intersection with Linda Vista Road. The students reflected on how safe they felt crossing the street and whether they thought elderly or disabled walkers would feel safe crossing as well. Many in the group had not considered certain aspects of walkability, such as having interesting places to walk to or having a buffer zone between the street and the sidewalk.
The walkability workshop was one of many field trip opportunities the students will be taking to better understand all the determinants of health. The youth RLA will also be taking a trip to City Hall to learn about local government and will visit the University of San Diego library. The librarians will be teaching students how to research and access information about land use and government policies in order to develop their Community Improvement Project at the end of the semester.
In the application to participate in the youth RLA, students were asked to reflect on what leadership means. One student wrote, “Leadership means the ability to lead and guide those around you or who look up to you to make right choices. Also, to motivate them to stand up for what they believe.”
The youth participating in the RLA are future leaders. It is important to teach them about creating health equity through the environment, as they will be enacting these concepts in their future endeavors.
Article written by Rachel Ruiz, Bayside Community Center
Community Service & Youth