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Engaging Youth in Research
Aug. 19, 2021
Interviewees: James Nolan, M.P.H., and Jessica Cabrera
This podcast explores the many benefits of engaging youth in environmental health research through the lens of the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMCAOS) Youth Council. You’ll hear from James Nolan, leader of the CHAMACOS Youth Council, and Jessica Cabrera, a youth researcher. They share their experiences with youth-led research, what they have learned, and how the program prepares the next generation of environmental health leaders.
Engaging Youth in Research
Engaging youth as partners in environmental health research can motivate them to pursue careers in science, build their self-esteem and leadership skills, and generate useful knowledge for communities. Giving youth a seat at the table also benefits the research. Young people bring creativity, new ideas, and energy to research endeavors.
This podcast explores these many benefits through the lens of the CHAMCAOS Youth Council at the NIEHS-funded Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health at the University of California, Berkley. The program trains Latino youth in research design and implementation and engages them in advocacy and outreach. Working with scientists, the youth lead research projects to investigate environmental health issues that affect their families, friends, and communities.
We’ll hear from James Nolan, M.P.H., leader of the CHAMACOS Youth Council, and Jessica Cabrera, a youth researcher. They share their experiences with youth-led research, what they have learned, and how the program prepares the next generation of environmental health leaders.
James Nolan, M.P.H., graduated from University of California, Berkeley with a Master of Public Health, specializing in social determinants of health disparities associated with racism, classism, gender discrimination, and geography. He focuses on engaging non-formally educated members of impacted communities in exploring how determinants of health and structural violence overlap to influence environmental justice, with an emphasis on harnessing local assets through community-based participatory research. This process helps to build awareness, expand capacity, and engage community members in co-designing more relevant and effective health interventions. He leads the CHAMACOS Youth Council and the Richmond Youth Council and coordinates community outreach projects, including trainings, presentations, workshops, website development, and multimedia including a Spanish Radio Novella series, an animated PSA mini-series, murals, and zines. He is also currently collaborating with California State University Monterey Bay on enhancing in-classroom curriculum with an environmental health focus, project-based learning, and arts-based inquiry.
Jessica Cabrera is a member of the CHAMACOS Youth Council. As part of her work in the Lifting Up Communities by Intervening with Research (LUCIR) study she characterized chemicals in cleaning products in the homes of Latinx women that may pose potential health risks. She conducted home visits where participants wore air monitoring backpacks that absorbed cleaning chemicals from the air. She also processed data and packaged samples for analysis. Since then, she has worked towards advocacy measures by creating infographic media materials and presentations while expressing her voice as a youth from Salinas Valley, California.
- Learn more about the about Lifting Up Communities by Intervening with Research (LUCIR) Study.
- Check out slides from a 2018 PEPH webinar featuring James Nolan about engaging youth in environmental public health.
- Read a 2017 PEPH newsletter story about a CHAMACOS Youth Council research project to examine how teen girls in their community are exposed to pesticides.
- Learn about other CHAMACOS Youth Council research projects in a 2019 NIEHS Grantee Highlight featuring Kim Harley, Ph.D., a scientist who helped establish the program and works with the young researchers.