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Boston Engages Community

Published on April 24th, 2019

Spring at Peer Health Exchange Boston has been all about engaging community: in our partner high schools, college chapters, and the Boston area.

Led by members of our Alumni Council, we held Career Development Events (CDEs) at each chapter, and two current Northeastern volunteers planned the second annual “Spring into Wellness” health fair for Peer Health Exchange students. The program team was busy, too: presenting a workshop at a local conference for educators, preparing to launch our first-ever Youth Action Board (YAB), hosting young people from the Boston Alliance of GLBT Youth (BAGLY), and distributing a small token of appreciation to each and every one of our amazing volunteers. PHEw! 

Health Educators participate in a networking event during their Career Development Event at Boston University.

Continuing our approach from last year, we opted for chapter-based CDEs to allow volunteer input on what would be most meaningful for their chapter as well as the ability to offer a range of types of events. The Boston Alumni Council took the lead in planning these events with support from a grant from Massachusetts Service Alliance as part of National Volunteer Week. Northeastern got us started by hosting a talk by motivational speaker/racial justice facilitator Bernadine Desanges; participants learned more about how their identity comes into play when working with young people and what it really means to center different identities and experiences. Boston Unversity chose a speed-networking event with ~15 local professionals from the health and public health sectors to learn more about various career paths. Harvard will host a conversation with Peer Health Exchange’s own VP of Partnerships, Ann Peralta, to talk about navigating higher education in pursuit of a career in public health. Finally, Tufts will have a professional development event with sessions on advocating for oneself in a new job, how to pitch Peer Health Exchange’s service to potential employers, and strategies for surviving and thriving in graduate school. 

Two of our Northeastern volunteers, Dom Ives and Maddie Tomasic, carried on another tradition started last year by coordinating a health fair at the state-of-the-art Whittier Street Health Center. At the fair, Peer Health Exchange students were able to see the center and visit the tables of youth-focused community organizations from across the city, including BAGLY, Samaritans, Planned Parenthood, Fenway Health, and Boston Gay & Lesbian Adolescent Social Services (GLASS). Through a scavenger-hunt activity, students learned more about resources available to them and how to get involved with different youth groups while earning tickets for prizes donated by local vendors (including an autographed picture from the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox).  

Also tabling at the health fair was one of our Commonwealth Corps members, Zarie Locke, who was letting young people in our program know about the opportunity to join the inaugural youth advisory board. While not coordinating the YAB or teaching workshops (usually in Malden!), Zarie is a member of the Youth Leadership Council at BAGLY, one of the nation’s oldest and largest queer youth organizations. Two young people, Grace and J, as well as their Leadership Development Coordinator, Lin, joined the Peer Health Exchange Boston office to share BAGLY’s youth-led, adult-supported approach to organizing – as well as their reflections on Peer Health Exchange – as part of the Local Leaders Series (aka the DEI Speaker Series). Lin was a health educator while at Tufts, and J took Peer Health Exchange while a student at the O’Bryant school. 

In other exciting new initiatives, the Boston program team was invited to present a workshop at the Boston-Area Educators for Social Justice Conference. We chose to reflect on the lessons we are learning as we move toward centering equity, relationships, and queer and trans youth of color in our work. Finally, to boost volunteer morale this spring during what are typically our most difficult and flu-ridden months, Peer Health Exchange Boston wrote handwritten notes and tied them to goodie bags containing self-care tools (including hand sanitizer and tea, as well as a bit of fun – play dough and candy) for every member of our volunteer corps. 

Wishing all a healthy, happy, community-filled spring! 

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