Using your superpowers

When my oldest was in kindergarten, I volunteered to help out with the classroom’s Halloween “Spider Party.” As the kids told me about their trick-or-treating costumes, one girl got right up in my face. She declared proudly, “I’m gonna be Batgirl!” She communicated that she wasn’t just dressing up: she planned to fully manifest all of Batgirl’s power and energy.  

Fast-forward thirteen years, and this back-to-school season is one like no other at my house: my oldest is off to her first year of college.

I sat at a parent orientation a few weeks ago, hearing about young adults’ developmental stages and how we parents can support the transition. Fighting back tears and a lump in my throat the entire time, I saw that I had persuaded myself that I was ready for this – because, you know, I work in adolescent health and know the theories and anticipate the next stage of development in my own kids (spoiler alert: not ready).

I realize it’s not just me feeling this ambivalence: back-to-school season is emotionally loaded, whether you’re headed to Kindergarten or college. It’s equal parts excitement and dread, anticipation and grief, beginnings and endings. Each new teacher, new friend, and new classroom demands from kids some level of risk.

Applied to young people, “risk” is 4-letter word in American culture. We adults tend to only imagine the dangerous risks young people may take (experimenting with substances, for example). We forget that we implicitly expect kids to take developmentally-appropriate risks every day. And that gradually developing the skills to navigate the next phase is what healthy youth development is all about.

The August 2022 issue of SAHRC “Connections” resource digest focused on a crucial support for young people taking these daily, courageous, age-appropriate risks: School Based Health Centers (SBHCs). SBHCs offer students an on-site connection to health literacy, healthcare access, and caring adults.

In that issue of Connections, I talk with state adolescent health coordinators in Louisiana and Washington state about their work with SBHCs. It reminded me that SBHCs are the Batgirls of healthy youth development, helping young people use their power and energy in positive ways.

As you step into this next school year, my hope is that each one of you feels like Batgirl.

Read the August 2022 SAHRC Connections Digest.

Use your power for good, friends. 

On behalf of your ever present superhero sidekicks at the State Adolescent Health Resource Center,

Lynn Bretl, MPP
Director, State Adolescent Health Resource Center at the University of Minnesota

Photo credit: Jenny Baker, Alaska’s state adolescent health coordinator, is fully in touch with her superpowers.

NNSAHC Insights

This space features diverse perspectives on what’s happening in adolescent health. Articles are submitted by guest writers from the Network and our national resource partners.

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