Sixty health academy students at Coachella Valley High School (CVHS) are piloting the launch of a Public Health Youth Corps for our region with the hope that many more students in academies across the valley will join next year. These students are part of a statewide Public Health Youth Corps, thanks to a partnership between OneFuture Coachella Valley’s Behavioral Health Alignment Team, FACES for the Future Coalition and the Safely Opening Schools mission. 

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The program focuses on youth peer education during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase vaccine, testing and prevention awareness in key California communities. Overall, the program builds on the existing FACES Public Health Youth Corps model and will activate more than 100 unduplicated youth as “COVID-19 and public health ambassadors” at the middle school and high school levels across the state. 

Coachella Valley’s Public Health Youth Corps students will take their regular health academy courses and receive additional instruction in Public Health 101, COVID-19 Vaccine Basics, Motivational Interviewing, De-escalation Skills for Challenging Conversations and Case Scenario Practice: Addressing COVID-19 Concerns. They also will certify in CPR/First Aid, Mental Health First Aid, Stop the Bleed and Opioid Overdose Intervention training. 

This fall, each student will interview three community members about their understanding of COVID-19 and its impact on their lives. They also will coordinate two community-based presentations and data collected will be used to inform statewide COVID-19 youth outreach and awareness campaigns. 

Jodie Capper, RN, mental and behavioral health instructor for the CVHS Health Academy, is leading the pilot implementation on behalf of our region. She is embedding the PHYC training elements within her Med II (2nd year) academy class, and all students in her Psych II course will also receive the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certification. 

MHFA is a training developed by the National Council for Behavioral Health to teach individuals how to recognize the signs and symptoms that suggest a potential mental health challenge, how to listen nonjudgmentally and give reassurance to a person who may be experiencing a mental health challenge. It also teaches how to refer someone to appropriate professional support and services.   

MHFA certification has just been approved for students under 18 years old, so this is an exciting addition to the program, and by December, 120 junior and senior students on the CVHS campus will have been trained to support their peers. 

For more information or to help fund this program in 2023, contact Kim McNulty at kim@onefuturecv.org.

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