Health Month Interview
Youth in Philanthropy is pleased to present an interview with Jes Levine, a high school student and
volunteer for California’s Marin Youth Health Advisory Council.
The Marin Youth Health Advisory Council examines environmental and social factors
that support alcohol, tobacco, and substance use and develops and implements educational projects and programs around those factors.
YIP: What inspired you to get involved with the Marin Youth Health Advisory Council?
Two of my very close friends were involved. Through their enthusiasm, I was convinced that I could work very well as a youth activist, and after my first meeting I was extremely excited to begin work with this fabulous group of young people.
YIP: Tell us about a recent project.
Jes: The most recent project we completed was a campaign to promote public awareness of the Tot Lot Law. The Tot Lot Law prohibits smoking within 25 feet of playground equipment or sandboxes. Group members designed a sign, had it made, and are in the process of posting the signs in all 92 Marin County Parks. The signs will inform people who visit the park about the law and also the employees of the park service who enforce the law. The more we spread awareness about the dangers of exposing children to smoke, the more we can influence the public about this issue.
YIP: What other projects are you working on?
Jes: We are working on several new projects, including a Social Host Campaign and a media project to spread our ideas even further into the community and reduce teen exposure to harmful substances. We are also working on recruiting new members since we have several graduating seniors this year. We are planning presentations to inform the community regarding tobacco use and its effects on young people.
YIP: What have been the personal benefits for you as a result of being involved with the sign campaign and other projects? How have these experiences helped you?
Jes: It feels extremely satisfying. We really made a strong effort with the sign campaign and we were recognized by those we came into contact with as valuable voices in the community. We worked not only with the members of our coalition and our advisors, Wendy Todd and Kimberly Mitchell, but also with representatives from each of the Marin County Parks and the San Rafael Park Commission.
I have been given opportunities to present to local government officials and facilitate meetings in our coalition. I have been called upon to make phone calls, write letters, and test my skills in a variety of different areas. I love talking to other young people at our presentations and hearing their ideas about what is happening in the world regarding tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. I love hearing from the people we speak to and sharing with them my ideas about how to effect change in their communities. I feel that I have the power to motivate people to take action in their communities as I have done in mine.
I have gained a great deal about facilitating meetings and organizing youth to take action. I learned how to become a stronger public speaker. The most valuable asset I think I learned, however, is the concept of environmental prevention. The idea of looking at an issue from several different angles has helped me in many ways, including how to approach people regarding a very personal issue, like drug use.
YIP: What advice would you give to other young adults thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Jes: GO FOR IT!! Get involved in any way you feel comfortable, and take risks with your work; push yourself. I have learned so much over the last 3 years by trying to exceed the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of. In pushing myself further than I thought I could go, I have become a very strong leader among my peers. I have changed my community by taking personal risks.
YIP: It is exciting to hear about your involvement in the Marin Youth Health Advisory Council. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts with us. Thank you very much for your time.
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