Classmates often stop Alma Gallegos as she makes her way down the bustling hallways of Theodore Roosevelt High School in southeast Fresno, California. The 17-year-old senior is frequently asked by fellow students about covid-19 testing, vaccine safety, and the value of booster shots.
Alma earned her reputation as a trusted source of information through her internship as a junior community health worker. She was among 35 Fresno County students recently trained to discuss how covid vaccines help prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death, and to encourage relatives, peers, and community members to stay up to date on their shots, including boosters.
When Alma’s internship drew to a close in October, she and seven teammates assessed their work in a capstone project. The students took pride in being able to share facts about covid vaccines. Separately, Alma persuaded her family to get vaccinated. She said her relatives, who primarily had received covid information from Spanish-language news, didn’t believe the risks until a close family friend died.
“It makes you want to learn more about it,” Alma said. “My family is all vaccinated now, but we learned the hard way.”
Community health groups in California and across the country are training teens, many of them Hispanic or Latino, and deputizing them to serve as health educators at school, on social media, and in communities where covid vaccine fears persist. According to a 2021 surve …