Inclusion Starts with Our Youth – NHF Supports LA’s First Youth Development Department (YDD)

Earlier this year, National Health Foundation joined Los Angeles public officials Monica Rodriguez, Kevin De León, and Nithya Raman in advocating for the City’s first ever Youth Development Department (YDD). Since the release of Kelly Bruno’s featured article for CalMatters, we are proud to report that LA’s youth scored a major victory when Mayor Eric Garcetti included $1.1 million for the YDD’s creation in early April. This funding will go towards services aimed at those aged 10-25 and focus on vital skills like financial literacy and job preparation.

While the need for additional resources for L.A.’s youth has been present for years, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved detrimental for our city’s young people, causing increased youth homelessness and unemployment, and leaving them disconnected from educational opportunities.

We’ve seen this firsthand at NHF, which is why we devoted ourselves to developing innovative education equity programs, like our Be A STAR (Successful Teens Acting Responsibly), a sexual and reproductive health program focused on supporting young people in healthy decision making, personal goal setting, and graduating high school. After the pandemic struck, NHF quickly transitioned the vital program to 100% virtual meetings to keep students engaged in important conversations surrounding the health implications of the pandemic and connected with life-saving local resources. NHF took the program a step further through its partnership with ETR (Education + Research + Training), which centered youth voices to inform the development of new NHF programs and address the issues that matter most to them.

By having a dedicated department to address our youth’s unique needs, we can connect them with the tools and resources they need to reach their maximum potential. After all, young people are already incredible forces for change, but systemic barriers, like racism and poverty, all too often prevent their voices from being heard. In creating a Youth Development Department, we are sending the message to the youths of today that they matter and have real, tangible power to effect progress.

While details about the first items on the YDD agenda have yet to surface, NHF looks forward to seeing its programs in action. As we establish the YDD and continue to implement policies that effect our youth, it is vital that we center their voices and lived experiences so that we can effectively create a government that works for our young people.

The funding for the YDD would not be possible without the Invest In Youth Coalition and the dozens of youth activists who have pushed for these resources for years. For more about the YDD and the advocates who made it possible, read this LA Times article.