OCEANSIDE — Tri-City Medical Center has partnered with North San Diego County NAACP to help young adults make a positive impact in their community by establishing goals and reaching their full potential.
First founded about a decade ago, the North San Diego County NAACP Youth Leadership Council brings young adults between the ages of 14 and 24 together to give their communities a voice.
“They are the voices in the community demonstrating to others that they also have a voice,” said advisor Debbie Matthews. “Those voices reach all across the board, whether it’s about the environment, social injustices, educational needs or activities they want to see in their communities.”
Matthews said her students have spoken to legislators, lobbied for bills and have helped those in need. Its members made and distributed masks during the pandemic, and they donate to the San Diego Food Bank.
“They’ve met Nancy Pelosi, spoken with Mike Levin and have partnered with other local youth organizations like CleanEarth4Kids and Students Demand Action,” Matthews said. “They have something to say and they want to be heard.”
Recently, Tri-City Medical Center began providing financial support to the council, which included a donation of custom-made shirts and jackets for its students. The hospital has also begun providing an education and training program to members that teaches the students to understand how to find their paths to success and opportunities to advance their futures now.
Hospital leaders share their own insights to reaching success through the “Strategic Career Planning: A 10-Step Guide to Realizing Your Potential,” which teaches students between the ages of 14 and 19 what it takes to achieve life goals and how to take advantage of the resources available to them.
Aaron Byzak, chief external affairs officer for Tri-City Medical Center, designed the program to assist students with setting professional, educational and personal goals while also developing a mentoring plan for individual and professional development. Each of the 10 steps focuses on a specific skill set.
Byzak teaches the students how to network.
“A lot of times young people don’t know how to make connections,” Byzak said. “They might not know anybody who could help them, so I try to serve in that role.”
Additionally, Byzak teaches advocacy training class that prepares students to be leaders of change in their communities. Besides members of the leadership council, Byzak also teaches classes to formerly incarcerated individuals and homeless people.
Tri-City’s support of the youth council is part of its Community Outreach and Support Through Active Leadership (COASTAL) Commitment Initiative, a broad outreach program that supports community improvement projects and has nearly 60 partner organizations.
Byzak, who is also board president of the North Coastal Prevention Coalition, first heard about the Youth Leadership Council from alternative board member Rob Howard.
“These kids needed investment,” Howard said. “Once you see possibilities you can have dreams.”
Howard said the leadership program helps students focus on the goals and ideas that they have in their heads.
“It’s a great opportunity for them and the community, where they can pay it forward,” Howard said.
Howard, Byzak and the council’s advisor, Matthews, see great promise in the youth council’s membership.
“These young people are absolute rock stars,” Byzak said. “I’m blown away every time I talk to them about their diverse interests.”
With talent already there, that is where Byzak comes in to provide additional structure for the students to reach their goals.
One student wants to pursue two different careers as both a fashion designer and an NFL player. Matthews explained that the program taught students how to seek each one of those careers.
“They stayed engaged throughout the whole process and shared what they really wanted to do at this time,” Matthews said. “Things could change, but if it does then they now know there are resources and mentorship opportunities.”