Three years ago after receiving a grant from Campbells, the Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) along with The Food Trust helped launch the Camden Youth Advisory Council (CYAC), a group of high school students from all over Camden that meets regularly to develop projects to improve the health of fellow students and residents.
With the support of FBSJ, CYAC recently held their first career night where students interacted with professionals working in the industries they are interested in.
“I was excited to meet with the Cooper University Health Care doctors and interns,” says Sydney, a senior at Creative Arts Morgan Village, who has been a member of CYAC for two years. “I’ve been interested in the medical field since I was 3 years old, so it is awesome to get some exposure before I head to Thomas Jefferson University to study medicine.”
For Ediel, a junior at Camden Big Picture Learning Academy who has been a member of CYAC for three years, the Career Night provided him with valuable insight into how to make his dream of opening his own bike shop a reality.
“I would consider myself a ‘bike head’ – I love riding and fixing bikes,” said Ediel. “Getting the opportunity to learn what it takes to launch and run a bike shop was exciting. My goal is to one day open a bike shop in Camden, because there really aren’t any near here, and it will help people get around and get exercise.”
The evening also featured guest speaker Shakema Grace, author of “The Butterfly Baby” and a performance from local artist Joie Kathos. “Having a career night for our CYAC students has been a goal of mine since the organization started,” said Tricia Yeo, DTR, Program Manager, Health & Wellness for FBSJ. “We tried to ensure that each student got to meet and connect with professionals in their interested fields, and it was great to see all the great conversations that were happening around the room.”
The CYAC students are also currently working on a survey about how school lunches can be improved in Camden. Once they have the results from the survey, they will give recommendations to the school district and present to Campbell’s. The students also participate in a YMCA Watershed by Bike (WEB) program where they bike around Camden and test water.
“The Camden Youth Advisory Council has empowered me to use by voice and taught me that I have the power to make a change in my city,” says Sydney.
Ediel adds, “My involvement with the Camden Youth Advisory Council has helped me hone my communication skills. Since the program began we have learned to work together to accomplish our goals.”