By: Jaclyn Kotora, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Olivia Storti, Editor; Eve Nevelos, Editor in Chief
Teen Health 101, founded by Valeri Guevarra, is celebrating its one-year anniversary. In an interview with the founder, she reveals some of her personal experience, the trials and tribulations, inner-workings, and long-term strategy of the organization. This nonprofit organization aims to combat the spread of misinformation by being a reliable and accurate resource of health for teens by teens. The inspiration behind the organization came from Guevarra’s English passion project, which then transformed into the nonprofit it is today.
“The original website setup of resources and links with the blog about personal experiences with health was what I originally submitted to the project, and then I made it into something more than a website and recruited a bunch of people. It is kinda a chain… the inspiration from the organization came from the website, but the inspiration from the mission— combating the spread of misinformation— is just from the misleading facts on Youtube, TikTok, and social media in general. I always thought of Teen Health 101 originally as kinda like the Teen Vogue, only for health,” Guevarra explained.
After gaining more attention from the press, the organization began to grow more rapidly, surpassing original expectations. Valeri Guevarra shared, “I didn’t really think a lot of adults would take it seriously, especially since it seems just like health information from teens on the surface. But if you actually dive deep into what we are doing, it is all for a good cause, for the right reasons, and in the best way we can. We are reaching out, we have the consultant board, we have guidelines for resources, and how to run a health-based organization. So we are doing all the right things, but at first, I didn’t think adults would take us seriously, but they did.”
Since the beginning of the nonprofit, the amount of staff members on the Teen Health 101 team has increased significantly, and a greater and more diverse amount of content is being created. The founder expressed, “It has been great to see the number of people involved and the amount of content and productivity grow. It is great to see some leaders who have been here from the beginning grow into these new roles and help us expand the organization even more. We are in our second year, and a lot of members have been with us since the beginning and have had the chance to step up and take their commitment and dedication to another level.”
Teen Health 101 mainly uses social media tracking to measure the impact and growth of the organization, gauging engagement and reach through followers, likes, and views, as well as comments and views on the website and the mailing list. At one point the monthly reach was 500k on Instagram, which has the most numerical success and engagement of the platforms.
Teen Health 101 is constantly finding new ways to improve and expand to produce the best content in organized and efficient ways. For instance, the events department, which has become one of the more successful and engaging initiatives at the organization, has been getting into the swing of things, hosting events such as Dermatology 101, Psychology 101, Nursing 101, and Med 101, which are recorded and posted with information on the main website. Valeri Guevarra shares, “We are expanding into new realms. I know we have been sticking to mainly medical careers [previously], and now we are working on a fitness event and having a live instructor give a fitness class for free.”
What makes Teen Health 101 so special is its young, diverse, dedicated, and inspiring team. Staff members include students from countries all around the globe. “It was interesting to hear people being so committed to the organization, even though there are a lot of barriers and differences. So it has been amazing to see staff members persevering through all those difficulties that don’t make it the easiest to work with fellow members and scheduling, then doing all this amidst a pandemic. So [they] definitely are resilient,” Guevarra expressed, “everyone I feel has some sort of passion. Even if they are doing it for some college app. or for other reasons, there is some sort of spark in there that I can see in probably everyone in the content that they produce and everything they do. There is some sort of passion there, which I admire and love to see in everyone, whether it be about nutrition or mental health. They find some area of health they are particularly passionate about and act on it, produce content, and help our mission grow.”
While the team is no doubt resilient, having staff members from around the globe poses some obstacles. Scheduling meetings and working with time zones are obvious challenges when working in an international organization. Additionally, a majority of members will not get the opportunity to meet up with each other in person. “It’s just kinda sad to think about that I probably won’t meet most of our staff, but at least I got to meet them virtually and got to connect with them over Teen Health 101,” shared the founder.
However, a significant benefit of being international is that it brings in many different perspectives and experiences with health. Guevarra expressed that through Teen Health 101 she has learned how to work with people better, break her echo chamber a little more, understand different perspectives, learn about more experiences and health all around the world. She states, “It is so easy to be hyper-focused on what is going on here, so being kinda forced when working in the organization to understand people's perspectives and see things from a different point of view has been amazing to work on and learn.”
As for upcoming projects, new articles, magazines, events, podcasts, and other content are routinely being published to the website and social media. In addition, Guevarra shared, “We are working with a journalist from Cosmopolitan for an article. We also recently collaborated with the NJ Department of Health. I know I'm excited to collaborate with them further.”
As Teen Health 101 continues on its second year in running, Valeri Guevarra shares that the long-term strategy is staying up to date with Covid and bust myths about nutrition and new trends on social media, with a dream of one day making it on the New York Times. She shares, “Just reaching out to more press is definitely one of our long-term strategies— just getting ourselves out there to new people, new audiences, working with bigger more influential organizations. I made that outreach and press department just for that— working with other organizations, trying to reach out to new medical professionals who can join our consultant team, and continue to produce quality, accurate, reliable, content.”
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Interview with Valeri Guevarra