August 15, 2020

A Case of Mistaken Identity Lands Two of our TA's in a Los Angeles Public Health Leader Program

“Thank you both for coming to multiple of our sessions! It was always a treat to listen to the way you can navigate our world and public health issues with an artistic communication lens. I always felt very seen and validated when attending your sessions.”

— Public Health Youth Leader Participant

Melissa Eusebio, MSPH, writes the following about her experience and the mix up that led to our recent partnership in Los Angeles, CA.

The start of 2020 looked promising for LA County Department of Public Health (DPH) San Gabriel Valley region. After carefully collecting community input, working with partners to develop a schedule of events, and remodeling the building, the team celebrated the Grand Opening of the Pomona Wellness Community on February 12, 2020. Unfortunately, after just one month, LA County (and the rest state of California) issued a Safer at Home order prohibiting gatherings in response to COVID-19. Much of our team was pulled into the emergency response system and programming at the Pomona Wellness Community ground to a halt.

While the pandemic required immediate attention, we knew that staying engaged with the community during this difficult time was necessary too. Our discussions centered on youth and how they might be impacted by the sudden school closures and a disrupted social life. We explored virtual activities that youth might be interested in and looked up youth-focused registered LA County vendors. We then reached out to several organizations including Youth in Focus.


When we got in contact with Chris from Youth in Focus, we realized we had gotten in touch with an organization that wasn’t an LA County vendor, but actually an organization in Seattle, WA, with the same name. After looking at the exciting photography and arts education workshops that they offered and learning that they could do their workshops virtually, we asked if Youth in Focus would consider registering as an LA County vendor and send us a quote.

It was such a pleasure to have Adam and Raul as guests in our Public Health Youth Leaders program. The 8-week program enrolled about 50 youth ages 16-22 and provided knowledge and skills for youth to explore public health opportunities in school, work, and the community. We asked for the Youth in Focus teaching artists to lead two workshops for participants to see how a public health story could be told through photos. Adam and Raul exceeded expectations by matching their workshop themes directly with two of our public health topics: reproductive justice and environmental justice. Both workshops were well received by the participants. Here are some thankful remarks they shared:

  • “Thank you Adam and Raul for being so positive during your presentations! I learned so much, and also learned a new way of storytelling.”
  • “I thoroughly enjoyed both sessions that you presented. I felt uplifted and more relieved after the sessions because of the energy you created.”
  • “Thank you Adam and Raul for hosting interactive workshops for us to explore public health while simultaneously exploring story telling. I have enjoyed our sessions with you guys and I feel I have learned more effective ways to story tell and how to find more connections within stories and myself.”
  • “Thank you both for coming to multiple of our sessions! It was always a treat to listen to the way you can navigate our world and public health issues with an artistic communication lens. I always felt very seen and validated when attending your sessions. Taking that collective breath together at the end of our water session was a very grounding moment that continues to remind me to breathe and be present!”
  • “Thank you both so much for taking the time to meet with our group twice and providing us with a different perspective of how we can approach public health issues. I really appreciated how personable you both are and the time that you dedicated for us to ground ourselves. Thank you so much!”
  • “Just wanted to say thank you for your good vibes and your passion for wanting to empower the youth. I honestly loved the breathing exercise at the beginning at end of the session as it so rare to do that. It was a great reminder for me take deep breaths. Also, the photovoice project is so moving (it was an introduction to something new for was the discussion about native land). Thanks!”
  • “Thank you for having a session with us. What you spoke about and sessions stuck with me very closely. I loved your energy! Thank you so much for spreading knowledge and keeping us active! I really enjoyed having you with us!

Thank you, Melissa and the LADOH, for the opportunity to work with your program. Finding ways that teens can use their voices to talk about issues of social and environmental justice is always on our radar. We hope that photography can be one of the tools they use to highlight these concerns, and look forward to partnering again in the near future.