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Peer Health Exchange’s Paint the Town Orange amplifies volunteer voices

Published on November 9th, 2018

Peer Health Exchange alum Jasmine Bland

Nearly 200 philanthropic, education, and youth advocate leaders celebrated Peer Health Exchange’s annual benefit Paint the Town Orange, November 8, in support of the organization’s work to advance health equity and improve health outcomes for young people in the greater Boston community.

The event held at We Work South Station, also marked Peer Health Exchange’s 12th year providing health education to ninth grade students at Boston Public Schools. This is done through an innovative near-peer model that trains 280 college volunteers from the Northeastern University; Boston University; Tufts University; and Harvard University to deliver skills-based health workshops to youth across the city.

Attendees heard firsthand about the impact of this work from Peer Health Exchange alum Jasmine Bland, a Policy Associate at the Health Policy Commission.  In her speech, Bland shared her experiences as a health educator and the effect it had on her career.

“As a volunteer, my memories of being in high school and facing those new and often times challenging decisions that high school students are making about their health for the first time, were so fresh in my mind,” said Bland. “When the students in my classes would ask questions about helping a friend facing anxiety, I could vividly remember what it was like to be 14 wondering how I could help and who we would turn to for the resources we needed.”

Peer Health Exchange’s curriculum spans over the course of 13 weeks.  Workshops equip ninth graders with the knowledge, skills and resources to make healthy decisions about substance use, sexual health and mental health.

Boston Executive Director Uchenna Ndulue

“We know the power of youth having accessible, approachable role models—near peers who can relate to youth but still provide them with accurate and reliable information,” said Peer Health Exchange Boston Executive Director Uchenna Ndulue. “We know that this education is particularly critical for those youth who are most at risk for poor health outcomes.”

Over the last decade, Peer Health Exchange has grown to provide their trauma-informed, skills-based health curriculum to over 30,000 young people across the city while building a culture of preventative health and wellness. This year it has reached 3,100 ninth graders in 17 high schools across Boston.

Young Bostonians face difficult decisions every day, many of which threaten their bodies, well-being, and futures. According to the CDC, among Boston high school students:

  • 1 in 5 binge drinks
  • 1 in 6 has seriously considered attempting suicide
  • 2 in 5 sexually active teens did not use a barrier method the last time they had sex

All young people deserve the knowledge, skills, and access to resources they need to make healthy decisions. Health education improves young people’s health outcomes, high school graduation rates, and life opportunities.

Peer Health Exchange is grateful for funding support from our Platinum Sponsor: Merck Corporation. Silver Sponsor: Cornerstone Financial Partners. Bronze Sponsors: Hemenway and Barnes; Dana Farber Cancer Institute; People’s United Bank; Citizens Bank and Santander Bank

It also extends a special thank you to its host committee: Francine Rosenzweig, Rimi Chaudhuri, Amy and Michael Medici, Brian Goldsmith, Carrie and Jake Erhard, Laura DeGirolami, Lisa and Pat Taffe, Stephanie and Ryan Corcoran, Kim Pearson

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