Youth Leadership Program Brings Teens Together
|To learn about American Diabetes Association camps or find one near you, visit diabetes.org/camps.|
Kendall Stopa, 17, loved the support she got from the friends she made at Clara Barton Camp, a diabetes camp in North Oxford, Mass. When Kendall, who has type 1 diabetes, learned of a way to stay connected throughout the year, she jumped at the chance.
Kendall is one of about two dozen teenagers in the Youth Leadership Program of the American Diabetes Association's Boston field office. The program helps the teens develop mentoring skills to use with one another and with young kids in the American Diabetes Association Family Link® program for families with children recently diagnosed with diabetes. "The basis behind the program is a peer mentorship model," says group advisor Anna Floreen. "You're much more willing to connect with someone who's been around the block and knows what you've gone through."
That peer mentorship is just what Kendall hoped to bring from her camp experience to the year-round Youth Leadership Program. "I have a better support system for myself: a base of diabetics," she says. "If I'm having a bad day, I'll just give them a call and tell them about it. They'll help me out because they . . . know how I feel."
The youth leaders meet four or five times a year to develop skills in areas including diabetes education (for themselves and teaching others), public speaking, law and debate, and nutrition. They also socialize and attend Family Link events. The youth leaders help raise money for the Association, too.
Anyone can attend Family Link events, but teens must apply to the Youth Leadership Program and commit to spend a year in it. That commitment helps them build solid relationships, says Luke Crowley, 17, of Londonderry, N.H. To Luke, the education portion of the program is important, but it's the relationships that stand out most. "We have peer pals, which is like a Big Brothers Big Sisters kind of thing," he says. "A teenager gets signed up with a younger diabetic, and they'll send them texts back and forth, 'Thinking of you,' just trying to let the kid know that they're not alone."
Currently, the ADA's Boston, Phoenix, and Seattle field offices each has a Youth Leadership Program. To get involved with your local Family Link events and to learn more about the Youth Leadership Program, visit diabetes.org/community.