Over the last three months, young leaders actively involved in the work of making their communities healthier, safer and more equitable brainstormed a virtual summit to bring their work and voices to a wider audience. Be the Spark! is the result of that hard work, a 2-hour summit that will be held this Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021 from 10 a.m. to noon.

The free summit will be held online, click here to register and receive a link

The summit is unique in that it was planned entirely by young leaders –the flyer, advertisement, and content for the summit was planned out by a group of 8 youth from the Native Health Initiative (NHI). Be the Spark! will begin with youth MCs setting the stage for the event, followed by workshops led entirely by youth activists, talking about the work for equity in health they have done and the lessons learned from their journey.

NHI hoped that the experience of putting together the summit itself would be empowering for the youth organizers. It seems that this goal has been realized. Sydnie Pino helped organize the event, as a youth leader with NHI who hails from San Ildefonso Pueblo and a 12th grader at Santa Fe Indian School.

“Planning for the summit, I have learned that my voice holds a significant power in society,” she said. “I have also learned that being an Indigenous woman does not prevent me from taking on leadership roles.”

“We've had a great time learning about the projects other students are conducting across the country,” added Noelle Gorka, an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan and one of the presenters. “We're looking forward to interacting with attendees and learning more about other ongoing health equity initiatives.”

The Native Health Initiative (NHI), is a partnership to address health inequities through loving service, funding its work through volunteerism instead of monetary funds. Youth empowerment, using the Positive Youth Development (PYD) framework, is a core of NHI’s work.

Partners involved in Be the Spark! include the UNM HSC Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, APHA Community Based Public Health Caucus, Fight for our Lives, Michigan Institute for Clinical & Health Research, First Choice Community Healthcare, UNM Honors College, UNM BA/MD Program, UNM Department of Family and Community Medicine and UNM Department of Pediatrics.

Be the Spark