Partner Spotlight: Flint Public Health Youth Academy


This summer, YouthQuest students were exposed to the public health field with the Flint Public Health Youth Academy.

“Public health doesn’t have a Halloween costume like a doctor or nurse does,” says Dr. Kent Key, director and founder of the Community Engagement Studio of Flint which facilitates the Flint Public Health Youth Academy. “We have found in research that students cannot aspire to be what they don’t know, so early introduction is pivotal to change the landscape around the career.”

The Flint Public Health Youth Academy grew out of Key’s dissertation research for his doctorate. In this research, Key found a disparity between the lack of minority representation in public health and how disproportionately Black people and people of color are affected by diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. To help this, recommendations were made to engage youth of color in public health. So, Key began to work to build the Flint Public Health Youth Academy to provide that bridge.

“I started working on the program in 2014 and started by developing curriculum, modules and the main components,” says Key. “We launched our first cohort at the end of 2017.”

The Flint Public Health Youth Academy hosted a cohort at YouthQuest in 2019 and again this summer. And Key hope to continue to teach YouthQuest students about public health.

What did Flint Public Health Youth Academy teach YouthQuest students over summer session?

We teach an introduction of public health and community health. We also teach about what diseases and viruses are and how chronic disease affects individuals over time. We teach them about variations of public health careers, what health disparities are, about public policy and advocacy – we did a deep dive into advocacy. Students also learn about research, and we train young people how to write grants.

What do you hope students took away from this experience?

That they can do whatever they want to do. That they don’t have to follow traditional career paths, and that there are other paths where they can make an impact.

Also, that everything is connected to public health, from access to healthcare and changes in the environment to the zip code you live in and the condition of neighborhoods. We want them to see health in a different way and see that health is more than what is inside the doctor’s office.

What is the biggest takeaway people should know about the Flint Public Health Youth Academy?

That it is an opportunity to expose students to a holistic view of health beyond clinical care. At some point, these students will be the ones running the world, and it’s important to show them things beyond their street or school and how they can play a role in keeping our community healthy.

YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.