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 Success Stories

Innovation Station Highlight: Emerging Practices in Youth Leadership Development

By Kate Howe, MPH
Program Manager, Child Health, AMCHP

The Rhode Island Dare to Dream Youth Leadership Development Initiative is an emerging practice in the AMCHP Innovation Station that promotes youth leadership and development. Dare to Dream is grounded in the idea that all youth, including those with disabilities, need to participate in positive youth development activities and acquire leadership skills to be contributing members of society. Youth, especially those with disabilities, need to gain self-esteem and leadership skills, including self-determination and self-advocacy, for this to be effective. However, the opportunities for youth with disabilities to access positive youth development and leadership activities are limited.

Dare to Dream was developed to provide these youth with disabilities with a statewide youth-led conference to bring the initiative to the forefront and provide a spring board for the development of positive youth programs in schools and the communities throughout Rhode Island. The program recruits, trains and supports young adults with disabilities to serve as mentors to other youth with special needs.

Dare to Dream was implemented in 2008 and the conference has been held yearly since 2009. The initiative has grown to include youth development, leadership and mentorship activities in schools and communities statewide. By 2012, more than 700 students attended the conference, and school systems throughout the state are required to register students and provide documentation for a student-led workshop presentation during the year prior to the conference. Dare to Dream has an increased number of youth with special health care needs (YSHCN) who have participated in the initiative and who are now taking on leadership roles. State and community agencies also have become partners in a collaborative effort to promote leadership development programs for YSHCN.

For more Rhode Island resources, visit specialhealthcareneeds/about/adolescenttransition/index. php.

For more information about Dare to Dream and other emerging, promising and best practices in maternal and child health, visit


Virginia Department of Health PAF Initiatives

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Child and Family Health Services PAF grant PAF initiative provides support to male and female students ages 18-29 enrolled in Institutions of Higher Education (IHE) who are pregnant or parenting young children under five. Student-parents participating in campus-based PAF programs are connected with a myriad of health, social services and educational resources and services that make it more likely they will continue to focus their energy on completing school while balancing their paramount responsibilities as a parent. Over the past two years, primary activities have centered around the establishment of Offices of Pregnant and Parenting Student Support (OPPSS) with the inclusion of peer mentors in the program design, enhanced efforts to identify and refer for services student-parents experiencing sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking issues, and the development of a targeted public awareness campaign to promote on-campus support programs. Colleges and universities currently partnering in this effort include Norfolk State University, Northern Virginia Community College, Patrick Henry Community College, Paul D. Camp Community College, Southside Virginia Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, Tidewater Community College and Virginia Western Community College. Since inception, the program has served more than 450 pregnant and parenting students.

For additional information visit or contact Jaimie H. Edwards-Caleb, MSOD, PAF program manager at (804) 864-7770.


Bringing Youth Voices to MCH Programs: Models of Youth Engagement

By Maritza Valenzuela
Program Manager, Adolescent Health, AMCHP

Positive youth development is an evidence-based public health strategy for developing inherent strengths and assets in young people that support healthy behavioral development. While the merits of youth engagement are understood, few resources exist that provide guidance on internal policies and procedures that support youth involvement and leadership development in office settings. Engaging youth in MCH work is the key to developing future MCH leaders. AMCHP members at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (DHPE) have not only successfully integrated youth into their programmatic work, they also have produced an array of practical tools and resources to facilitate the meaningful engagement of youth in other state health programs. In Washington, DC, education agency counterparts at the District of Columbia Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) oversee a Youth Advisory Council (YAC) that engages youth in health-related outreach and programming. Staff from both programs and a youth advisor from Colorado came together for a Knowledge Café at the recent AMCHP conference to share their programs and resources with conference participants.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Prevention Services Division, the largest youth-serving division in the state, has adopted formal guidelines to, in partnership with youth, create and sustain culturally effective practices to integrate young people into the work they do. Colorado has successfully engaged and hired youth advisors in substantive work of the department through the Colorado 9to25 program (CO9to25). CO9to25 is a collective, action-oriented group of Colorado youth and adults working in partnership to align efforts, improve systems and achieve positive outcomes for all youth, ages 9-25, so they can reach their full potential.

CO9to25 provides a forum for youth and adults to connect and share ideas about the best ways to ensure that all youth have the skills, opportunities, and supportive relationships needed to make safe and healthy choices. It also promotes learning opportunities through regional partnership meetings, trainings and other events. By utilizing a holistic, positive approach to youth development, Colorado successfully engages youth. Over the next three to five years, CO9to25 aims to mobilize partnerships, raise public awareness, promote best and promising practices, share accountability, and promote policy and environmental change to ensure that all young people in Colorado are safe, healthy, educated, connected and contributing.

Resources from both DC OSSE YAC and CO DHPE are now available on the new AMCHP Positive Youth Development & Youth Engagement Web page, along with other resources, publications and links. Let us know what you think and how you will you use these resources and ideas! AMCHP will be adding more to the site soon so please submit any resources you would like to share to Maritza Valenzuela.