This blog post is a part of the YTH Staff Interview Series, where we are featuring an in-depth Q&A with each member of our staff. This time around, we’re talking to Jade Lopez, YTH’s Marketing and Administrative Coordinator. A global health and development professional, Jade has experience living and working across the globe, from her work in Mozambique in the United States Peace Corps, to developing health care programs in India, and even implementing a hospital internship program, that earned her a nomination for a United Nations Public Service Award.
As the Marketing and Administrative Coordinator, Jade plays a strategic role in developing YTH’s communications strategy and supporting staff in facilitating their programming projects. I spoke with her about her extensive resume, passion for young people, and impressive work at YTH.
ERIN: You’ve lived and worked in Southern Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe and have even worked with the Peace Corps, for which you were nominated for a UN Public Service Award. What can you tell us about your travels and what you learned about youth, tech, and health along the way?
JADE: Living and working abroad was great, mangos were cheap and I have a deep love and appreciation for being able to take hot showers on the regular now. I’m grateful I got the opportunities to experience what I did, and to be able to come home to such an affluent and influential community afterwards while still maintaining ties to some of the places I’ve been because of technology.
No matter where I was, I’ve always found that youth are avid tech adaptors. For example, I loved hearing my students’ Portuguese accents change once they got electricity and started watching Brazilian soap operas! In my own experience, tech helps me to stay connected to my support system and so is an indispensable component of my mental and overall health.
ERIN: Since you’ve done so much work internationally, how did you first come to hear about YTH and what led you to want to work for the organization?
JADE: I’ve been a part of the YTH family for a while now. My mother was working as the Vice President of Marketing and Communications back when Deb Levine, the founder, was still the Executive Director. I remember participating in one of the LARC contests they did with Bedsider! I took a selfie with my computer (back when that was considered innovative) about why I loved my IUD. When I was on the path to medical school, Sheoran, who was then Deputy Director, was an awesome mentor and we’ve been in touch ever since. Thankfully, my path has finally brought me back stateside and with bountiful and varied experience within the youth, tech, and health sectors to share.
ERIN: On your LinkedIn profile you talk about your beliefs around what you believe creates empowered communities, saying that they are a result of “willing individuals who compromise,” in your experience. I would love to hear how you think this relates to initiatives in tech and health for young people?
JADE: No matter where I have been in the world, I have yet to encounter communities made up solely of the progressive and inclusive changemakers like the ones I am lucky enough to encounter every day in my work and personal life. Here at YTH, we empower young people to create change for their health and wellness by creating spaces with other youth serving professionals. We want young people to advocate for themselves within their own communities and with other members of those same communities who may not share the same priorities they do.
ERIN: You’ve also developed primary health care programs for young people in India. What did you learn from the experience about the importance of integrating technology into young people’s treatment options?
JADE: The primary health care programs I developed in India didn’t involve a lot of technology solutions per se. Technological innovations meants well building, agricultural sustainability practices and rural health solutions with existing resources rather than traditional western digital technology like phones and computers. However, we involved that type of technology when we talked about what we are doing. After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, international donation patterns changed: people started giving money for specific purposes, not just general donations. For most aid organizations this is a disaster, since people from outside the issue with no context are now dictating how the issue should be handled. Social media allows people from outside to see that the organization is doing good work with the funds and to continue to build trust with people.
Here at YTH, this relationship with technology applies to young people so they can be heard. Vulnerable populations don’t lack voices to speak, they lack ears to listen and digital solutions like the ones we build at YTH are integral to getting everyone else into the healthy future they are building.
ERIN: What do you think is the greatest misconception about young people today and how do you think YTH is working to debunk that myth?
JADE: I think it’s a dangerous mistake to lump all young people together. It’s very obvious that people all over the world have remarkably different life experiences and approaches to challenges. I see how YTH fosters a spirit of honoring and working with the differences to promote overall health and wellness of young people, no matter what. We give young people the stage whenever we can, and do our work as older allies to educate ourselves about our younger brothers and sisters struggles so we can help them by meeting them wherever they are.
ERIN: Since you’re also now on our communications team, I would love to hear your perspective on how to best use online communications tools to reach young people?
Yes, I am! I think it’s really important to know what we are trying to achieve when we reach them. Are we trying to educate young people about something? Are we trying to create action? Are we trying to engage in dialogue? Or something else? It’s important to be genuine, and to know when we need to listen, and to build up trust within the communities with which we’re interested in interacting. Just like in real life, young people have a low tolerance for insincerity, so no matter how great a communications strategy is, it can’t hide lack of authenticity. I think our instagram is a good example of how we foster community, we talk about issues that are important to the people we’re engaging with, we share resources and tools, and use our platform to meet many types of young people where they are.
ERIN: In terms of a forward outlook, what do you see yourself doing professionally in the future and how is YTH helping you to shape your identity as a young professional?
I am currently applying to graduate school for a Masters in Public Health. So starting Fall 2017, I will hopefully be studying and receive that academic certificate by Spring 2019. YTH has been a great place for me, when I started, I had just come back from an international tour and needed to connect back with my roots, my community, and contribute to the places and institutions that let me be the person I am today. YTH is a space where I can contribute my experience and further push for change for young people, both at home and all over the world. I love the people that I have met working here, our partner organizations are amazing, the people who come to our conference are inspiring, and the team I work with are so dedicated, intelligent and passionate, I feel lucky to come to work here.
ERIN: Since November is the month of Thanksgiving, what are you the most grateful or thankful for in your work at YTH and why?
JADE: I am most thankful for the spaces we create at YTH to move the needle forward. I’m passionate about social justice and our culture of innovation allows us to create tools and technologies to include more and more people in our healthy future.
ERIN: This year (2016) was your first time attending the YTH Live conference. What was your favorite part of the conference and what are you most looking forward to seeing this year?
JADE: Last year was great. I loved the energy, and seeing how many young people thrive when given the platform to do so. I’ve been able to keep in touch with some of the young people I met during YTH Live 2016 and I’m inspired by what they continue to do long after we leave SF. So I look forward to seeing how that manifests itself this year. Also, live streaming! I had so much fun doing it, I look forward to doing it again this year.
To learn more about Jade and her work, read her full bio here.
Want to join Jade at YTH Live 2017? Register today and receive a $100 discount, as a part of our Early Bird Registration. We only have a limited number of tickets available at this special price, so act now to claim this discount.
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