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Meet Lauren: A health promotion journey with Youth Solutions

Posted on 22nd February 2024

“A full circle” is how Lauren Payne describes her relationship with Youth Solutions.

Lauren joined the youth drug and alcohol prevention and health promotion charity six months ago as a Health Promotion Officer and Educator. She’s quickly become an integral and enthusiastic member of the team, relishing the day-to-day challenges of developing and delivering health promotion projects with a focus on alcohol and other drug prevention.

But Lauren’s relationship with Youth Solutions goes back to June 2016 while she was studying an undergraduate degree in social science with an interest in public health and health promotion. She was keen to gain some practical experience in health promotion to complement her tertiary studies.

With a childhood spent playing sport and encouraged to pursue outdoor activities, Lauren naturally leaned towards a healthy lifestyle which, in turn, evolved into a passion for healthy living aka health promotion.

Lauren takes up the story: “I did a Google search to see if there were any health promotion work experience opportunities in my local area of Campbelltown, and that is how I found out about the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) program offered through Youth Solutions.”

Photo caption: Youth Solutions' Lauren (left) and Bri, attend a community event to connect with young people and distribute health promotion resources.

Photo caption: Lauren (left) and Bri, attend a community event to connect with young people and distribute health promotion resources.

YAG is a voluntary group of young people who assist the Youth Solutions team to identify and address the issues that local young people are facing. YAG members are trained and supported to become knowledgeable, skilled and confident Peer Educators who have opportunities to co-facilitate workshops and presentations at local schools and alternate learning spaces.

“I found that being part of YAG boosted my knowledge and understanding of alcohol and other drug information and also boosted my confidence in delivering educational workshops to high school students,” Lauren said.

“The monthly meetings provided a chance to discuss emerging news in the AOD (alcohol and other drug) space, brainstorm ideas to improve the health education campaigns/programs run at Youth Solutions and meet other like-minded young people who were passionate about health education in the local area.”

“I also had the opportunity to attend community outreach events and support the facilitation of school programs while learning from the wonderful Youth Solutions health educators about effective health promotion strategies.”

Lauren didn’t realise at the time, but those three years with YAG would also inform her career direction when she hit a decision-making crossroads.

“During those five years away from Youth Solutions, I pursued a Masters of Secondary Teaching and taught in various high schools in the PD/H/PE and Humanities faculty,” she said.

“But while I loved teaching, I knew I wanted to focus more specifically on health promotion. Ideally, an educator role where I could still work with young people in a variety of settings.”

Securing a role as a Health Promotion Officer and Educator at Youth Solutions has brought Lauren home in more ways than one.

“I’m back in my hometown and familiar with the local area,” she said.

“Everything at Youth Solutions is so familiar and welcoming and I have a good balance of office work, planning, facilitating and educating.”

“My passion for health education and health promotion has brought me back to Youth Solutions where I enjoy working with young people to provide support, skills and info for them to be healthy, safe and connected.”

“I love getting out into the community and interacting with young people, whether it’s through workshops or outreach activities. I try to connect and tell them about support services. I also emphasise they’re not alone; we are here for them if they need information or support in the future.”

Lauren is also looking forward to another opportunity in 2024. Five years after she left YAG as a volunteer, she’s preparing to return to the youth group as the chairperson.

“I now have the chance to guide the next group of young people enthusiastic about creating positive healthy change within their community,” she said. “I’ll look at how to better shape the YAG program and bolster the YAG training program to increase the knowledge and skills of our Peer Educators.”

“YAG supported me during my tertiary studies and beyond. I hope it can support others too.”

Learn more about the Youth Solutions Youth Advisory Group.

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