Grantee Profile – Children’s Hospital Advisory Network Guidance and Empowerment (CHANGE)

Teens for Change Grantee Profile: CHANGE

To celebrate and support our 2015 grantee organizations, we will profile each one on our website. Read on to learn about the exciting work our grantees are doing in the community!

The Children’s Hospital Advisory Network for Guidance and Empowerment (CHANGE) held a celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 17, 2015. The event brought community members together to commemorate progress for people with disabilities and to look ahead. Rachel Whitman, CHANGE’s Youth Leadership Coordinator, talked to us about the event and the organization:

TRCF: How is CHANGEs summer going thus far?

Rachel Whitman: CHANGE started the summer strong with a lot of energy and excitement. Our board members are involved in the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) celebration that has been happening across the city. On July 17th 2015, CHANGE organized an informative and interactive event that brought together all types of community members to learn about the ADA. The event had speakers, a resource fair, and educational games so attendees could learn about what it is like living with a disability and how the ADA has changed so many lives. This event gave parents, community partners, professionals, and youth the opportunity to learn more about access, opportunity, inclusion, and equity.

TRCF: What motivated you to work with this organization?

RW: I started working with CHANGE in December 2014 as their Youth Leadership Coordinator. CHANGE’s board members are passionate and dedicated individuals who want to develop their own leadership skills while working on innovative projects that help other young people, professionals in the medical field, and parents. I truly enjoy working with these leaders and seeing the positive changes in themselves and the community that stem from their hard work.

TRCF: Where are you in the process of implementing your program?

RW: CHANGE has been making waves for about three years but the group continues to grow and adapt to tackle new challenges and meet new needs of the Pittsburgh community. While CHANGE’s mission and vision remain constant the structure of the board, the types of projects completed, and how events are organized changes according to the needs and interests of our stakeholders. This makes the group relevant and dynamic!

TRCF: How many youth are involved? What is their role?

RW: We have seven CHANGE board members. A CHANGE Board Member is a young adult, ages 16-28, who has applied and been accepted to the CHANGE board. Board member responsibilities include:

  • Planning events according to CHANGE’s mission (i.e. Socials)
  • Collaborating with CHANGE staff, other board members, and community partners when developing projects
  • Communicating reliably and responding in a timely fashion to all members of the CHANGE team
  • Consistently attending CHANGE events
  • Creating projects that meet CHANGE’s mission and reaching out to community partners and resources
  • Completing a Peak Project that addresses transition or a healthcare related topic that promotes individual and group growth
  • Following deadlines and due dates
  • Serving as an advocate in different systems (healthcare settings, community agencies, educational environments, etc.)

We have three CHANGE interns. A CHANGE Intern is a young adult, ages 16-28, who has applied for the board and is accepted for a three-month term to explore CHANGE’s mission, activities, and team members at a deeper level. This built in trial period allows interns to decide if CHANGE will help them develop their leadership skills and if they are willing to dedicate time, energy, effort, and creativity to implementing CHANGE’s mission.

TRCF: What long-term results are you hoping to yield? Have you seen any results since youve begun?

RW: CHANGE’s mission is to improve young adult access to healthcare and support youth who encounter transitional barriers as they become adults. CHANGE lives this mission by supporting positive youth development, nurturing youth leadership, and creating effective youth-adult partnerships. CHANGE provides opportunities for board members to develop higher self-esteem, become more self-aware about who they are, what goals they have, and how to achieve those goals, and practice being advocates in their own lives and the community. CHANGE board members become better leaders when they explore how they learn, experience new communities and different perspectives, practice using their own voice and listening to others, and develop problem-solving skills. These transformations are made possible in part by effective youth-adult partnerships in which supportive adults authentically collaborate with youth. Both youth leaders and adult mentors gain valuable skills when they work together. CHANGE creates an environment where board members work collaboratively with Children’s Hospital Staff, community partners, parents, and professionals. We plan to continue supporting leaders by giving them opportunities through which they can learn, problem-solve, and achieve. CHANGE empowers our leaders to make an impact every day.

TRCF: What else do you want the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania to know about your program?

RW: CHANGE is a youth-led and youth-driven initiative that advises youth, families, and professionals about the transition process. It works to ensure successful transition to adult lives for individuals who have faced transitional barriers in healthcare.

CHANGE supports a community where youth can:

  • Claim their voice in order to grow as advocates both in their own lives and communities
  • Find support as they transition from adolescent healthcare to adult medicine
  • Be empowered to make important and educated decisions in healthcare and other aspects of their life
  • Communicate their own experiences with transition to encourage medical providers to embrace and incorporate youth development, advocacy, and empowerment in their practices
  • Positively affect the policies, procedures, and processes at Children’s Hospital to better serve the needs of young adults
  • Create easily understood resources for a diverse group of youth who struggle with accessing healthcare and having successful transitions
  • Be present in the community by hosting educational events for other young people and their support systems

Ultimately we believe youth can make a difference. It is important that young adults get involved with issues in our society because change takes time, energy, and commitment. Learning how to advocate for change is a critical skill for everyone. We all have the potential to make positive change—young adults are change makers. CHANGE needs the perspectives, experiences, and voices of all types of youth so we can help our diverse community. Things only get better when we take educated action and serve as leaders. CHANGE is all about leadership, education, action, and progress.

To keep up with CHANGE, visit http://www.lend.pitt.edu/community/change. Follow Chp CHANGE on Facebook and @chpchange on Twitter.

Check back soon for our next 2015 grantee profile.