Go Off “The bEATen Track”: Volunteering for A Youth Health Hackathon Is Worth the Effort

People often cringe when I tell them that I love teaching adolescents. If they could have been a fly on the wall at the YTH Health Hackathon, they would have understood my inclinations. Two hours after meeting each other—most of us for the first time—our group of seven miscreants had a wall’s worth of ideas and thoughts scrawled hastily on sticky notes, and enough laughter and silliness to power a—well, a hackathon, I suppose.

But I digress.

I volunteered for this event for several reasons, not the least of which is the excitement of facilitating a collaboration of vibrant young minds. I was also moved by the idea of having our youth work with a medium that they know very well, and are often harangued for—technology. I read so often about the dangers to our youth caused by cell phones, texting, social media, etc., but here they were encouraged to embrace tech, explore it, and mold it into something that can better their lives and the lives of their communities. This concept parallels the work I do for Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theatre. We are constantly striving to expose our youth to health education in ways that feel comfortable, safe, and respectful to them, and the Health Hackathon embodied that.


The team presents their app.

The team nervously awaits the outcome as judges deliberate.

The team nervously awaits the outcome as judges deliberate.

What I didn’t know was how emotional and inspiring this event would be. The other professional in our group—Maksim Pecherskiy—was a brilliant coder and a natural with the kids; and our students were each so bright, creative, and dedicated to the task. I will never forget the tension, excitement, and camaraderie that rocked our little group as we waited for the judges’ decision and the looks of disbelief when it was announced that their app, the bEATen Track, would be brought to life. This was the kind of event that could empower a young mind with the self-esteem to rise to the next insurmountable challenge, and perhaps create a habit of it.

If you’re looking for a way to use your hands to lift the next generation a step beyond yours, sign up for the YTH.org newsletter, become a volunteer for the Level Playing Field Institute, or just Google “volunteer (insert name of your city here).”  You don’t have to volunteer for every opportunity, but it’s handy to get an email now and then to show you what’s available. I can assure you that it’s worth the effort.


JamieJaime Asdorian is a production supervisor for Kaiser Permanente’s Educational Theater.

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