Youth Advocates Program

Partnering with Youth to Reimagine Services and Systems

California Children’s Trust, in partnership with the California Coalition for Youth (CCY), has made an organizational and financial commitment to youth-led mental health systems change with the expansion of our Youth Advocates Program and the establishment of our Youth Advisory Board (YAB). Co-developed with its five founding youth members, the YAB guides and grounds CCT’s work with the voice and experience of young people, and empowers youth leaders to continue taking action for youth mental health reform after CCT sunsets in December 2024.

Youth Advisory Board

The Goals of the Youth Advisory Board are to:

  • Guide and influence CCT’s work and decisions,
  • Center youth leadership in all aspects of CCT’s advocacy work, and 
  • Empower youth leaders to continue CCT’s work in partnership with other advocates and leaders after CCT sunsets in December 2024.

If you are a youth interested in learning more about the Youth Advisory Board, please contact us at youth@calyouth.org


2022-23 Youth Advisory Board Members

Sriya Chilla - She/Her

Sriya is a senior in high school in San Diego, CA. She comes from a school with many clubs spreading awareness of mental health on campus. However, when a friend reached out to her about their struggle with mental illness, she was at a loss for words. She later realized that she and many of her peers didn’t know how to provide support in a crisis, despite the fact that youth are more likely to confide in their friends than an adult. When looking at her school’s mental health resources, she found a lack of support services from youth to other youth. From then on, Sriya committed herself to establishing peer-to-peer mental health programs in high schools across California. Knowing that her work might have an impact on someone’s life or bring a smile to someone’s face keeps her motivated. In addition to being a member of CCT’s Youth Advisory Board, Sriya is the Co-Chair of the Youth Advisory Board at the California Coalition for Youth (CCY), the Co-Chair of the Community Affairs Committee at the California Mental Health Advocates for Youth and Children (CMHACY), a crisis counselor at the California Youth Crisis Line, and a panelist at several conferences on youth advocacy in school mental health. Sriya continues to use her voice to ensure that no student is at a loss for words when it comes to their mental health.

Jade Davis - She/Her

Jade is the Administrative Assistant for the California Coalition for Youth (CCY), supporting the work of the organization’s Youth Advisory Board. She is also an active member of CCT’s Youth Advisory Board. She is currently attending GCU to get her master’s in Business Administration. For undergrad, she attended Saint Mary’s College of California to study Business Administration. She grew up in the Bay Area and loves it here. Growing up in a single-parent home taught her the importance of community because that’s where most of her time was spent. From the YMCA to Girl Scouts, to being a volunteer anywhere she could. Jade has always been a huge part of her community. Because of this, she advocates for all youth from all walks of life. She sees the need for youth to be included in everything because it affects them too.

Nghia Do - He/Him

Nghia Do is the Founder of and runs a youth-led organization with members nationwide, YouthMindsAlliance (YMA), which raises awareness about the importance of mental health and transforms systems to better serve young adults through policy advocacy. YMA was recognized by U.S. Congressional representatives and the California State Senate for their suicide prevention campaigns. Do was inspired to start YMA when his personal struggle with depression turned into a passionate journey to advocate for youth mental health. He is also the Project Director of the Youth Advocacy Board, a partnership of California Children’s Trust and the California Coalition for Youth, and he is a member of the Board of Directors at California Mental Health Advocacy for Children and Youth (CMHACY). He is working to transform the California mental health system by working on public policy to implement peer-to-peer programs within high schools. If Do is not working, you will find him swiping TikTok, reading books, or watching shows (and crying.)

Kassy Poles - She/Her

Kassy is a 23-year-old college student who was born and raised in Vallejo, CA by her loving and supportive family. She works at Putnam Clubhouse, an accredited Clubhouse International nonprofit organization that focuses on the social and vocational rehabilitation of those with severe mental illness. Since she was 8 she has struggled with several mental health diagnoses including ADHD, Bipolar 2, eating disorder, anxiety, and substance abuse disorder. Having been previously incarcerated, she is committed to fighting to make a change in social inequality and advocating for more accessible substance abuse resources, especially for those under 30. She remains resilient and wants to help others by showing them it doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, you are in the driver’s seat and you can make your life what you want it to be. When she isn’t working on homework or at her job, she’ll either be reading, in the kitchen, painting her nails, petting cats, or hammocking in a park.

Aria Rani Sindledecker - She/Her

Rani is an 8th grader at Isaac Newton Graham Middle School. She is an advocate and activist for mental health, having spoken at the Krause Center of Innovation, on a panel for UCSF and the Commonwealth Club, at the California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies and more. She is the Founder and President of the Empathizers, a school club that destigmatizes mental health and promotes the youth voice in mental health conversations. Rani is also a documentarian, having created two award-winning short films, “Stigma-Free Nation: Pathway to Parity” and “Power to Save a Life”, that spotlight issues surrounding mental health. She is on the Youth Advisory Board of the California Coalition for Youth and the California Children’s Trust. She is a member of the Teen Advisory Council at the Community Health Awareness Council and a HEARTS Youth Mental Health Ambassador and Research Intern at UCSF. Her goal is to be a doctor someday to help change and save lives.


Youth Advisory Board Alumni

Levi Deatherage – He/Him

Steven Greene – He/Him

Divya Mamidi – She/Her

Ted Ngatia – He/Him + They/Them

Chezia Tarleton – She/Her

Youth Advocates in Action

February 28, 2022: California State Assembly Joint Hearing, Child and Youth Behavioral Health Panel

Sriya Chilla and Nghia Do, Youth Advisory Board Members with California Children’s Trust and California Coalition for Youth, provided expert commentary on the youth mental health crisis and the need for more relevant and accessible school-based supports, with a focus on peer-to-peer, to help youth heal and thrive. Watch the hearing in its entirety here, or click on the images below to jump to Sriya and Nghia.

“SB 803 is a great step forward in the peer-to-peer world but it needs to be followed up with more legislation that includes youth under 18 at the high school level. It’s our responsibility to set up the next generation with the mental health tools they need to succeed at school and in life.”

– Sriya Chilla. Watch Sriya’s testimony.

“What will the state do to incentivize and promote student-centered initiatives such as peer-to-peer so students are not just at the center of care, but are also at the center of engagement—allowing us to be the agents that help others.”

– Nghia Do. Watch Nghia’s testimony.

March 2022: Aria Rani Sindledecker takes first prize in national C-SPAN documentary competition

Congratulations Aria Rani Sindledecker for your first prize national win in the middle school division of C-SPAN’s 18th annual StudentCam documentary competition! Rani won for her documentary, “Stigma-Free Nation: Pathway to Parity,” about the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Rani is a middle school student, youth mental health advocate and Youth Advisory Board member with the California Children’s Trust and the California Coalition for Youth. Watch the documentary.

Youth Advocacy Fellow Submits Letter of Support on AB 586 for Increased School Mental Health Services

“I believe there are two critical things that students need to feel more in control of their own mental health and wellness. First, teachers and students themselves need to have the training and support to really listen to each other and build trusting relationships–in the classroom and embedded in the culture of the school. When we feel secure with our relationships, it lifts the stigma of mental health, and we are in it together. Second, we need programs that educate everyone about mental health and social-emotional wellness. It is something that permeates our levies, and students want to be seen as full people, not just people who are stressed about grades. These types of comprehensive and relationship-building supports take time and investment–they take the commitment that I’m seeing from AB 586.”

– Isabel, excerpt from letter of support for AB 586

Youth Advocacy Fellow Joins CCT for Public Testimony, Assembly Health Hearing on the DHCS Telehealth Proposal

Following on CCT’s recently released report, NO GOING BACK: Providing Telemental Health Services to California Children and Youth After the Pandemic, CCT youth advocates shared their lived experience to amplify key recommendations and advocate for the inclusion of phone and text messaging for all Medi-Cal providers in DHCS’s Telehealth proposal.

“If I’m struggling on any particular day with my issues, I reach out to my therapist first via text because I know she’ll get back to me as soon as she can. She will text with me and stay on the thread as long as I need to get stable and go on with my day.”

– G, Oakland, 20 years old; Full Testimony.

Youth Advocacy Board member engages in Historic Medi-Cal Managed Care Re-Procurement Process

Levi Deatherage, board member of California Coalition for Youth and CCT Fellow, responded to the DHCS Request for Information back in October 2020, urging the state to involve youth in the process and stating:

“Mandating inclusion of the youth perspective and voice in MCP contracts, especially to inform MCP partnerships with community-based organizations and schools, is a critical first step.” Full response.


If you are a youth interested in learning more please contact us at youth@calyouth.org