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The Advantages of Being a Youth Ambassador

The National Psoriasis Foundation states that approximately 20,000 children under 10 years of age are diagnosed with psoriasis each year.1 Psoriasis can severely alter one’s quality of life especially in the area of self-esteem and self-love. A CNN 2015 report shared that kids as young as 5 years old are having concerns about body image, these worries are more significant in those who are living with a chronic illness.2

One family shares their story

Thomas Dvorak is an enthusiastic 13-year-old boy scout who is living with psoriasis. His mother Kathleen Dvorak shares feelings of frustrations in the search of finding an official diagnosis for her son when lesions first appeared on his skin at 6 years old. She too dealt with psoriasis and in the late 80’s when there weren’t many options of support for sufferers, however, times have changed.”We found lots of online resources thanks to the psoriasis website. Thomas was diagnosed in the summertime of his second-grade year. We received the books the NPF offered to further educate ourselves. By the time summer was over, Thomas went back to school and walked into his classroom with a tank top, short sleeves, shorts, showing everything,” states Kathleen.

The National Psoriasis Foundation is empowering students in a new way through the Youth Ambassador Program which started in 2016. This program identifies kids living with psoriasis who are doing exceptional work in overcoming the disease and working to eliminate the stigma and shame.

Thomas is not allowing the disease to run his life. He became a youth ambassador in 2017 and shares how the program has changed him as a young man and how is fighting stigma through advocacy.

“Scales are never a problem…”

I use them as a conversation starter,” reveals Thomas. He advised although the joint pain can be difficult he uses his psoriasis flares as a way to introduce his condition to others to ignite the conversation of what it is like to live with psoriasis with his classmates.

How do you find empowerment?

“I learned about my disease,” share Thomas. Providing the tools for a kid to advocate for themself is an important task for any kid living with psoriasis. Our Spot, is a new platform for kids living with psoriasis and their parents. It provides resources on treatment options, coping, emotional support, mental health needs, and much more. It’s a great place to help a young person learn more about their condition.

Make a difference

Thomas advises one of his reasons for becoming a youth ambassador is to advocate for others, “I am just working on trying to find a cure, not just for myself, but for everybody including my mother.” The students of the Youth Ambassador Program are committed to speaking on behalf of the psoriasis community, participating in volunteer events such as walks, and sharing their personal stories of life with psoriasis.

The importance of the youth ambassador program

You can make friends out of this… I started talking to other people at these events about my psoriasis, we become friends, they may join my Team NPF walk team. We can talk to each other about psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis,” Thomas shares. Often times kids living with psoriasis can isolate and become less social due to the stigma and hardships of having a visible disease. The Youth Ambassador program gives youth the opportunity to meet others who can relate and understand what they are dealing with.

What parents should know

It gives these kids so much pride and a sense of purpose. It gives them wonderful opportunities to go places, to speak to people, and meet people to share their story with,” shares Kathleen. This program strives to give kids the power they need to live fulfilling and quality lives with psoriasis

More resources

The National Psoriasis Foundation also has a new platform called Our Spot a place for youth living with psoriasis and their parents. This platform provides tips on treatment options, coping, emotional and mental health needs. It also shares stories of youth living with and overcoming psoriasis.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. National Psoriasis Foundation. About psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in children. Accessed on April 23rd, 2018.
  2. Wallace, Kelly. Kids as young as 5 concerned about body image.