Peer Health Exchange convened 10 young people from Chicago Military Academy, May 14, 2019, for a lively discussion centered on their recommendations for the city’s new mayor Lori Lightfoot.
As part of The Chicago Community Trust’s day-long, city-wide annual On the Table event, students talked about their ideas for health education programming, taking into consideration this year’s theme, “A Memo to the Mayor.”
Facilitated by Katherine Spry, a health educator from Peer Health Exchange’s University of Chicago chapter, students were honest and open about their personal experiences and advocated for more spaces and opportunities to have trusted adult mentors, dedicated space in the school to build deeper relationships with Peer Health Exchange health educators, and more content around mental health and substances.
Read a summary of the discussion and the submitted “Memo to the Mayor” below:
Title: Recommendations for Health Education Programming
Your Memo: (If you had one topic or issue to share with Mayor-elect Lightfoot, what would it be?)
We want to see more health education around mental health, sexual health, and substances; particularly around resources to learn more about mental health topics of depression and bipolar disorder and about marijuana.
What about the topic or issue should be a priority for the mayor?
Schools need more resources to make sure that students feel supported and have space to confidently speak with trusted adults. Additionally, neighborhood violence is a product of bigger health issues and it needs to be addressed. People are angry and need help.
Mayor-elect Lightfoot’s values are equity, diversity, inclusion, transparency, accountability, and transformation. How does the topic or issue connect to these values?
Everyone deserves access to health resources. Students are asking to have conversations with people who look like them and who have gone through similar experiences. One student shared, “I think if we had Black women who are going through what we are going through it would give us some inspiration. We don’t have many women in the school. We are always getting a male point of view. No female point of view.” Students made it clear that they want to have conversations with trusted adults who have a dedicated space in the school that they can easily visit between classes. While the school has a partnership with Peer Health Exchange, students feel that one class period a week is not long enough to discuss candid health topics; they need more one-on-one time to talk about their health and other topics that are important to their well-being.
What are suggestions from the conversation for Chicago’s new mayor to consider as she creates her priorities? What do you feel Mayor-elect Lightfoot should do regarding the topic or issue?
More mental health funding and more resources for students within CPS to access trusted adults and health information. A health clinic near and in the school. More access to STI testing, and information about depression and marijuana.