Jonnay Cooper, Zanett Rosado, and Emma Valdes of YWCA New Britain’s House of Teens could never have guessed that joining this special group would lead them to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference in Orlando, Florida.
As part of the House of Teens program, the girls participate in a project called PhotoVoice. Through the use of this photojournalism technique, the teens take photos of their world and use the photos to assess their community. The focus of this year’s PhotoVoice project was to look at the development of the two new FasTrak hubs in New Britain and their impact on community health.
Dr. Robert Dudley, a consultant on the PhotoVoice project and AAP member, knew that the Academy was interested in involving more teens and families at their AAP National Conference and Exhibition. He thought the House of Teens use of this community-based, participatory research method would be a perfect fit for the event.
And so with Dr. Dudley’s facilitation, a sponsorship from the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, and a donation from Mayor Erin Stewart’s Governor Run fund, the House of Teens was able to send these three young women to Orlando. They hoped to share their findings in order to educate pediatricians about understanding how environment affects peoples’ health and how to develop ways to make changes in their own communities.
Jonnay, Zanett, and Emma were all part of the team that helped developed the storyline for the project and choose photos. They were chosen for the adventure due to their participation, public speaking and leadership skills.
The teens presented at the Council on Community Pediatrics poster session/reception of the conference. The girls set up their large poster display, which outlined their project and its results, so that the pediatricians could peruse their exhibit.
According to Dr. Dudley, “The presentation shared what the teens learned with the community and policy makers. Having them present to a national audience was a chance to take things to a new level. The teens…stood by the poster they helped design and presented to and answered questions from leaders in the pediatric community from across the country- a little nervous at first and then ever more confident. They told the story of what past participants have learned and advocated for and what the program means to them today. Their presentation shone not only for the honest assessment of the challenges teens and families face but more importantly for the power of teens to bring about positive change. By the end of the session it was clear they were a hit.”
Fortunately, the trip wasn’t all work. The AAP invited the girls to spend an evening at Universal Studios Islands, which had been rented out by the organization. They spent the night riding roller coasters with Dr. Dudley. Their last day in Orlando was spent exploring Universal Studios.
Emma said, “This was my first time on a plane and in Florida and I appreciate the opportunity to have a voice and advocate for teens in the city of New Britain.”
The pediatricians were so impressed with the teens that they have already been invited to another convention in San Antonio, Texas.