How YTH Live Taught Me to Believe in Youth Innovation
April 30, 2014
“Keep calm and trust youth innovation.” That’s what Jamia Wilson, YTH Executive Director, said at the opening plenary of the YTH (youth + tech + health) Live Conference in San Francisco earlier this month. And while I was trying hard to keep calm, my technological savviness only extends as far as my smart phone’s Wi-Fi and my laptop’s bandwidth. I feared I’d be totally lost at a conference like this. In retrospect, this was a bit silly. The first letter of the YTH initials stands for youth, and I’m a youth, so this has to be my cup of tea, right?
Both the health and technology fields are expansive and innovative, facilitating everything from the latest health app to the development of in-home HIV test kits. But trying to figure out where teens and youth fit in all of this can be tricky, which, in my youthful, pre-conference eyes, lead me to believe that I just would not belong at this conference.
So you can imagine my surprise when the first session of the conference was a panel of teens and young adults doing amazing things. Whether it was creating a student organization at their college for queer people of color, like Anthony Sis; offering support for girls going through puberty, like Niharika Bedekar; or just encouraging youth to be proactive about change, like Adora Svitak, that first session was seriously inspiring. People my age were not only unapologetic in their pursuit of innovation, information and equality, but were embracing their age as an asset and not as something that could hold them back.
There were also a ton of awesome sessions at the conference where you could learn about what other organizations like Sex, Etc. are doing to help promote sexuality education and healthy lifestyles. Sex, Etc., for example, presented a game that’s in the works called Safer Sex Shuffle, which helps reinforce what safer sex means regardless of one’s sexual behavior. DoSomething promoted Crisis Text Line, which offers a confidential texting service for anyone who needs to talk and get support on anything from homework to bullying (text 741-741). And PH/ACS created an online platform for people living with or exposed to HIV/AIDS to allow them to share their stories on AmpThisUp.org.
The greatest thing I got out of this experience was meeting lots of people in the health and tech field, regardless of their age. Yes, we should keep calm and trust youth innovation. But just as it’s awesome and important for young people out there to be ready to make change, it’s also essential that adults are out there willing to help cultivate and support the innovators and thinkers of tomorrow. Together, we can do practically anything.