Student Ambassador Summit

November 18, 2019 // Author: Austin Hollimon

Tennessee Justice Center recently partnered with the YMCA Center for Civic Engagement, the Meharry Vanderbilt Alliance, and The Mayor’s Office of Youth Council to present: Igniting the Next Generation of Healthcare Leaders, A Healthcare Advocacy Summit.

For the past 3 years, TJC has led a student ambassador program in which we work with high school students to build their advocacy skills and train them to be healthcare advocates and leaders. Previous TJC student ambassadors have led voter registration drives, signed their peers up for healthcare, passed resolutions within their student councils to expand healthcare access and completed many more projects.

This year, TJC held a summit at the offices of Family and Children’s Services. This summit brought 15 future leaders together to learn from each other and learn from experienced professionals who make an impact by practicing medicine and advocating for healthcare access.

Brenda Butka, a physician in Nashville for over 3 decades, began our Summit with a discussion of the challenges that our healthcare system faces today.

Victor Ukwu MD brought a youthful energy and vibrancy to the student ambassador summit.  He talked about the many setbacks he’s had on his way to becoming a doctor, including overcoming a car crash that was nearly fatal.  His story of perseverance inspired everyone in the room.

Dr. Carol Paris is a fierce and passionate advocate for Medicare for all.  She provided our students pathways and guidance on how to build a coalition.  Leaning on the theories of Bill Moyer, author and scholar on social movements, Carol helped the students frame how they see themselves as agents of social change.  Her work helped inspire a passionate discussion among the students on the pathways they can take to make a change.

TJC’s Executive Director, Michele Johnson, JD, also brought forward energy and inspiration as she discussed how she helped co-found TJC over 20 years ago. She shared how she has applied her passion and legal training to help make a difference in our community as an advocate for healthcare.

Each of our student-leaders was invited to apply to TJC’s student ambassador program.  This year-long program will give students training and encouragement on their journey towards making an impact in the healthcare space.

Special thanks to TJC staff Kinika Young and Kerry Keitzman,  Hannah Vickery of the Tennessee Disability Coalition andTyler Door with the YMCA Center for Civic Engagement who helped make this event possible.

Igniting the next generation of leaders is an amazing part of TJC’s work.  Being a part of that work was a thrill and one of the highlights of my fellowship here at TJC.