Youth Address Community Mental Health by Creating a “Snowflake” Conference in West Virginia

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A youth team from two West Virginia communities who attended the 2020 National Healthy Living Summit planned and coordinated a conference to address mental health. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on events and gatherings, youth pivoted their planning and logistics for the Snowflake Conference to a virtual platform.  health equity in their communities. They created and the Snowflake Conference project and came up with session topics and conference logistics. On October 10, 2020, 19 youth and 11 adults attended the virtual conference to address mental health as a health disparity in their communities.  According to the participants, youth agreed that as a result of successfully implementing this conference, they are confident in their abilities to plan and execute an idea about community change with opportunity for disseminating the project as a pilot and small-scale model. There are plans for longer-term post conference evaluation, but some responses from a short post conference survey indicate that participants gained insights about their own uniqueness and the importance of mental health. Respondents also strongly agreed or somewhat agreed they learned more about resources for mental health, gained a greater understanding what mindfulness is, and they feel better about communicating during conflicts.  Three counties have expressed interest in replicating this concept their communities and ideas generated by this youth-led virtual conference have inspired state-level Extension committees on Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging to begin making plans for a similar youth-led statewide summit.