This year, the Camden Coalition is expanding the reach of our Community Advisory Council (CAC) to high school students with the addition of the Camden Healthy Youth Council (Youth Council). The Youth Council will bring a younger perspective to the CAC’s oversight and outreach, and will embark on an initiative to advance trauma-informed care in the city of Camden.

The first meeting of the Youth Council featured Hopeworks ‘N Camden, who introduced our new young members to trauma informed care. Across the city, Hopeworks Youth Healing Teams have been training peers, other organizations, and the entire staff of the Camden public school district about adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the impact of trauma on young people’s behavior and health. Providing a background in the terminology and theory of trauma, the Hopeworks team used games to show how histories of trauma can sabotage young people’s efforts and ambitions through self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.

At their second meeting Rebecca Bryan, RN, Director of Urban Promise’s Wellness Center, dove deeper into trauma theory. Jared Hunter, Program Assistant for Innovation Operations at the Camden Coalition, who has been working closely with the Youth Council, said that the Youth Council members were fascinated by the idea that trauma literally changes how the brain works. “They wanted to learn more about what kinds of emotions are triggered and what kind of emotions are shut down with different types of trauma,” he said.

Moving forward, the Youth council will apply their new understanding of trauma to some initiatives of their own. Thinking about how certain aspects of their city could be improved with a more trauma-informed approach, they will develop a social media and postering campaign to raise awareness around trauma. They will be presenting their campaign to the CAC and to local faith-based organizations taking part in our Faith in Prevention program.

Soley Berrios, Program Assistant for Community Engagement at the Camden Coalition, says that the hands-on structure of the Youth Council was very deliberate. “I knew that we wouldn’t be able to engage high school kids by just sitting them on the Community Advisory Council,” she said. “They need to have something tangible and active.” Along with the interactive workshop presentations, each Youth Council meeting exposes members, mainly high school sophomores and juniors, to potential careers to help them begin to chart their futures.

“It was really cool to see these kids brainstorm and see how sharp they are,” said Jared. “I can’t wait to see how much farther they go.”

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