I’m Joleen (she/her), a high school senior living in Los Angeles, CA. As a Southeast Asian student looking forward to pursuing STEM and medicine, I value community-building, inclusivity, and the freedom to explore curiosities. I’ve been working with Peer Health Exchange as a Youth Advisor for almost two years, and this is how it all began.
In the fall of my sophomore year of high school, I attended an online conference hosted by UCLA’s Vietnamese Student Union. I was connected to two undergraduate mentors – one of whom worked at Peer Health Exchange, and one who was a PHE Youth Advisor the previous year. After reading the application he sent over, it felt like the roles and responsibilities of being a Youth Advisor fit my skills and passions perfectly. Almost two years later, I can confirm this is beyond true, and I look forward to sharing much more.
As a Youth Advisor, I developed professional speaking skills through regular online meetings with staff and peers nationwide. I learned how to troubleshoot unexpected setbacks, handle logistics, and accommodate everyone’s schedules professionally and efficiently. During our meetings, we bonded over icebreakers, planned events, created social media campaigns, and built career-oriented skills. We talked about how PHE can be more inclusive with wording on applications, whether breakout rooms are necessary during events, and how resumes should be structured. After a few weeks, I had the opportunity to co-lead meetings and take my turn at building skills from performing such tasks. With every initiative I took in such a welcoming and warm space, I felt my confidence and leadership skills grow.
The most impactful experience I had with PHE was starting a Women’s Reproductive Health Campaign on social media with the help of the Community Youth Advocacy (CYA) Team. As a person who identifies as a woman, I want to ensure that everyone has the necessary knowledge needed to make healthy decisions. With one other Youth Advisor, I drafted carousel posts, reels, and educational yet entertaining content that could be routinely posted on PHE’s Instagram and Facebook. I saw my drafts come to life with the help of the Marketing and Communications Team, and I liked how I could see my work physically impact PHE’s audience through the amount of engagement per post. After all, it’s not an everyday occurrence that you see your work on a nationwide organization’s feed!
By helping PHE accomplish the mission of building healthier communities, I’ve learned how to find the proper support and resources for my own. By giving my input and representing the younger generation, I learned how my actions can affect positive change. Most importantly, I continuously learn with every conversation and space I join at Peer Health Exchange. In fact, because of the health advocacy and equity work that I’ve done with PHE, I’m even more determined to make a difference in my local community’s access to healthcare and resources by becoming a physician.