Healing, Equity, Advocacy & Leadership (HEAL) Project

Who We Are

HEAL  aims to promote healthy behaviors and environments as a substance use prevention strategy for Latinx & Black Youth.


Reduce 30 day substance use among 9th grade Latino students
Reduce drug related suspensions by Hispanic/Latino and African American students

1) Healing Circles

  • Provide the space to heal, share, and build relations

2) Youth Coalitions

  • Engage youth in advocacy, leadership, and peer to peer education

3) Art Engagement

  • Engage youth in the arts as a tool for advocacy, expression, and connection

4) Youth Advocacy Summit

  • Peer to Peer engagement and leadership development

Youth Coalitions

Establish Youth Leadership Coalitions (YLC) in Visalia high schools for African American and Latino youth to engage with their peers in the development and implementation of community solutions surrounding social justice issues, including the disproportionate suspension of African American youth and the high number of alcohol and tobacco retailers in communities of color

Art Engagement

With the support of local Latino and African American Art Ambassadors, engage  Latino and African American youth in art expression, such as painting/graffiti art, spoken poetry, and rap/song and host an annual art showcase around the topics of social justice and health equity.

Youth Advocacy Summit

Support Latino and African American youth leaders annually in organizing and leading an Annual Summer Youth Leadership Summit for Latino and African American youth each year in support of building resiliency, enhancing leadership skills and engaging youth in discussions on how to improve their communities

This project is funded by Elevate Youth California. Elevate Youth California is funded by State of California’s Department of Health Care Services through the Proposition 64 Youth Education, Prevention, Early Intervention and Treatment Account and is administered by The Center at Sierra Health Foundation.




Systemic racism and the tobacco industry
Feagin defines systemic racism in the introduction to "Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations": "Systemic racism includes the complex array of antiblack practices, the unjustly gained political-economic power of whites, the continuing economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines, and the white racist ideologies and attitudes created to maintain and rationalize white privilege and power. Systemic here means that the core racist realities are manifested in each of society's major parts [...] each major part of U.S. society - the economy, politics, education, religion, the family - reflects the fundamental reality of systemic racism." Swipe to learn more about how you can seek justice and stop the harmful practices of the tobacco industry. Citation: NPR Morning Edition, What Systemic Racism Means and the Way it Harms Communities, July 2020
The Tobacco Industry: Today, the tobacco industry has admitted to the harms of cigarettes, yet our youth face a new threat with vape and other tobacco products.  Historical targeting of communities of color: Today, tobacco-related diseases are still the number one cause of death in the African-American community. Lower-income communities are less likely to be protected by smoke-free laws overall and African American children and adults are more likely to be exposed to secondhand smoke than any other racial or ethnic group. Research also shows that deaths caused by secondhand smoke have a disproportionate impact on African-Americans and Hispanics.  Disproportionate impact tobacco has on youth: African-Americans have the highest rate of cigar use. Cigars include a variety of products, including traditional large cigars, longer and slimmer versions of large cigars called cigarillos, and little cigars, which are like cigarillos, but generally have a filter like cigarettes. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among Hispanic/Latino high school students (23.2%) and middle school students (13.1%). Overall, 10.5% of middle schoolers and 27.5% of high schoolers use e-cigarettes.
What We Can Do: The community of Visalia has over 107 tobacco stores with the highest concentration of the stores being in communities of color, particularly the lowest income area.  May 17th: Visalia city council voted 2-1 in favor to allow a smoke shop to operate about 500 feet away from Houston Elementary School.  May 24th: Visalia planning commission meeting todat at 7pm. Submit a public comment by emailing Susan.currier@visalia.city.  Public comment email template on next slide. Deadline to send email is today at 4pm.  Mail letter to: City of Visalia Planning Commission Attn. Susan Currier 315 East Acequia Avenue Visalia, CA 93291  Benefits: Maintain a list of tobacco and e-cigarette retailers. Reduce the density or clustering of retailers. Reduce sales to youth. Restrict retailers located near schools or youth-oriented facilities.
Mail letter to: City of Visalia Planning Commission Attn. Susan Currier 315 East Acequia Avenue Visalia, CA 93291  Email: susan.currier@visalia.city (by May 24th at 4pm)  Template: My name is [blank] and I am a (parent, student, community member, etc.). I do not support the decision to allow a smoke shop, PRD Cigarettes, to operate around 500 feet away from Houston Elementary School or other youth-sensitive spaces. [Include your reason for your stance above, and sign your name.]