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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Huffington Post recognizes Sparks Nation: Announcing the Top 24 Under 24 Youth Changemakers: Youth Changemaker: Sadé Powell

Sadé, 19, is an outspoken young woman who has worked diligently to share HIV/AIDS prevention messages in her native city of New York, New York.

Sadé works as a part of the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDs Coalition (YWCHAC) in New York, a coalition for and of young women of color addressing the increasing HIV rates among their population by building partnerships among individuals and organizations that serve and empower adolescents. She first got involved at age 14, when one of her teachers connected her with another student involved with the program. She sent in an application and has been working with them ever since. 

Sade Powell with her mother
& HIV/AIDS activist, Sheril Franklin
Sadé's involvement with YWCHAC is driven both by her indignation with current health policies for HIV/AIDs, and by personal experiences: her mothers also work with substance abuse and HIV- infected populations, and her grandfather died suddenly from an AIDS-related issue.

Sadé graduated from the WE SPEAK program at the Coalition in 2011, and currently acts as the Summer Institute Advocacy Associate. She is involved in a mapping project with Legal Action Center, designed to support for the implementation of NYC's mandate on comprehensive sex and HIV education in public schools, which also require quality evaluation to track effectiveness.

"When I was in middle school, we received a two-day sex education course provided by a local clinic Mount Sinai Adolescent Clinic. Even then, the only students that were given these classes were student whose parents signed permission forms," says Sadé. Comprehensive sex education for all students regulated by this mandate would ensure access to the right information for all students in the city—an important cause for Sadé and the YWCHAC.

Sadé's "sole reason" for being involved in mentoring and policy change, she says, is to engage all people, especially marginalized groups, in civic issues.
"In this field you are taught to feel strength and believe in it.," she says. "The foundation for my philosophy is very much grounded in grassroots politics."
Sadé has interned with Advocates for Youth and was chosen to address the U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS to share her thoughts on the importance of including young people in the HIV/AIDS prevention efforts laid out by the White House in 2011.
In addition, Sadé has taken her advocacy global: She participated in the 2012 International AIDS Conference where she had the opportunity to speak on a panel for the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.

While many aspects of the conference were inspiring to her, Sadé learned something very important about public conversations around HIV/AIDs. "I left the conference feeling disillusioned and disheartened by the politics of such a grand event," she reflects. "Instead of just policymakers and community organizers, I would have enjoyed having a diverse crowd of youth as well as local DC residents at the conference, especially considering the city currently has one of the highest HIV rates in the nation."

As an advocate, this realization compelled Sadé to examine the assumptions that activists "blindly traverse and often fuel" when working on public health issues. Her next project is to bring a diverse, young group of people into a conversation to inform advocates from all walks of life.

"Sadé is a dedicated advocate who understands that youth involvement in policy making is imperative to their futures and to their immediate communities," says her nominator Kymsha Henry. "She works hard to mobilize the newer members of the Young Women of Color HIV/AIDS Coalition whenever she can."

"I am honored to be named a Top 24 Under 23 Young Changemaker," says Sadé. "Recognition for youth activists is extremely rare as we are oftentimes belittled and excluded from the decision-making process. This is why it is imperative that youth are given more leadership positions to foster healthier youth-adult and peer relationships. Unfortunately, we see this undermined even within youth organizations that may indeed provided health services however they lack fundamental structure to nurture and support youth leaders.

"My decision to continue to be a voice and vital part of YWCHAC has everything to do with its ability to foster empowerment and in all of its members. Hence, we work as would a village," she says.
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