A new take on ‘You Only Live Once’

YOLO (youth oriented leadership orientation) logo represents new up and coming club.

Official Logo

YOLO (youth oriented leadership orientation) logo represents new up and coming club.

Andres Contreras, Writer

YOLO (Youth Oriented Leadership Organization) is a new up and coming student-led organization whose sole purpose is to improve mental health and help students stop vaping. This student-led organization started in the 2021-22 school year and was founded by activist and Steele County Public Health worker Ms. Andrea Marshall

Ms. Marshall decided to start the club because she saw a huge need in the Steele County community and recognized how big the vaping epidemic has become in today’s society, specifically for kids in high school. Ms. Marshall said, “I decided to start YOLO because I saw a huge need and recognized that there are mental health problems and that the vaping numbers are way too high for my comfort level.” YOLO has its own office in downtown Owatonna which helps organize and gives the students a place to work in an office-like environment.  

Ms. Marshall got funding from MDH, Minnesota Department of Health, which helped immensely in the club lift off. Ms. Marshall said, “I really felt like I could take this club and go with it and having the funding from the grant would help me do awesome things.” MDH set out information for a grant and ALA, the American Lung Association, partnered with Ms. Marshall on writing and submitting an application. The grant includes $150,000 per year which goes to salary for the leaders, event planning and buying merchandise without having to fundraise every time. The State of Minnesota was aware of how big the crisis of substance abuse and mental health was; they were more than happy to fund a student-led organization to help better kids. 

YOLO has a unique way of setting up their group. Instead of working together as just a large group, the organization is split into six factions as well as one large group. One of the factions is the leadership team which involves all of the small group leaders including the group’s secretary and executive leaders. Along with the leadership team there is marketing, creative developing, design, planning and PSE ‘policy system and environment’. Ms. Marshall said, “We’ve done a lot of work establishing ourselves and making sure we have these teams in place.” It is left to the hands of students to decide where the teams go, how they will reach students and educate on the topics they are focused on.

Kinzie Carlson is YOLO’s secretary. She was not sure which sub group she wanted to be in or be a leader of but her role as secretary helped find her place by being able to attend all meetings. Carlson decided to be involved in YOLO because she wanted to help kids in Steele County better their mental health and fix their issues with substance abuse. Carlson said, “It’s all about reducing substance abuse, specifically vaping in our community, not just in OHS but in Steele County as a whole.” After being a leader for YOLO, Carlson learned that mental health is a very big factor to what causes substance abuse. 

YOLO is a collective student initiative whose motto is ‘reaching students through students’.”

— Hailey Kjersten

Hailey Kjersten is one of two YOLO leadership executives who has been very dedicated to the club since joining. Kjersten said, “YOLO is a collective student initiative whose motto is ‘reaching students through students’.” Kjersten is a coordinator who got involved with YOLO in the spring of 2022, her role is to lead all of the small teams. Kjersten decided to get involved because she believed it would be a new and different opportunity for her. 

YOLO has been involved in many events in the community such as ‘safe and drug free’ and ‘have a safe season’. YOLO is planning on moving their ideas inside of OHS and into our fellow health classes, along with meeting with Principal Sullivan in OMS to teach about subjects in the health classes there. An upcoming event they are currently working on is a panel discussion with Big Brothers Big Sisters. 

Freshmen through seniors in Steele County are all eligible to join YOLO, but joining YOLO is a big time commitment. There is an application and interview process– they do this to make sure the organization is getting students who are genuinely interested in their motive and will be committed and have the time and energy for the group. YOLO is not turning anyone away but they are trying to get people who will be involved and commit.

YOLO wants to remind everyone to take positive risks instead of negative ones, and to live life in a safe and respectable way while still having fun.