When we advocate for School-Based Health Centers, we often talk about the essential care and support that they provide to youth. However, one thing that is not always as clear is the leadership role that these centers play in their lives.
Take Zeaira Chestang for example. Growing up in Ypsilanti Michigan, Zeaira remembers visiting the Corner Health Center. She was born when her mother was 17-years-old.
“If the corner wasn’t there, my views on health and life would have been different,” said Chestang, “I would have probably been deprived of basic health needs.”
Now a 22-year-old college student at Schoolcraft College, Chestang is a board member at the Corner and serves on the Youth Leadership Council. Her friends call her “Granny” for her mothering nature, and she describes herself as a fun, loving person who is kind and caring.
In high school, Chestang participated in a theater troupe through the the Corner Health Center. However, after graduation she could no longer attend the troupe meetings. Quickly, she rediscovered the Corner through their Youth Leadership Council.
The Corner is a School-based Health Center in Ypsilanti Michigan, where youth ages 12 to 25 can get the care they need, become responsible for their own health outcomes, and grow into leaders and advocates for adolescent health. As the acting President of their Youth Leadership Council, she has a responsibility to help chose and organized projects for the group.
“We come together to choose and vote on different projects,” said Chestang, “We try to make our community better for the young people that are living there.”
As a Board Member at the Corner, Chestang is the acting secretary and chairs the trustees. After three years of serving on the board, she has seen a change of the board atmosphere.
“If you are going to serve a population that is very specific, you should have someone that is very specific because they can give you first-hand experience,” said Chestage, “I get to sit at a table with a bunch of professionals and see what they contribute to the Corner and the community.”
Chestang believes leadership and advocacy are ways with youth can provide value to school-based health centers. Chestang was a past attendee of SCHA-MI’s Youth Advocacy Day.
“I know a lot of people in my area have never left this area, they probably don’t even know what a capital building looks like, besides looking in a picture,” said Chestang, “It is a unique way to get young people involved, especially seeing how policy is involved.”
You can learn more about the Corner Health Center at www.cornerhealth.org