See our interview conducted with the TYAN Program Director

This November, we are celebrating the Texas Youth Action Network’s 5th anniversary. We wanted to recognize some special individuals in our network who have become the roots of our success. However, none of it would be possible without our fearless leader, Emily Naiser. In the words of one of our favorite TYAN staffers, Ronda Jackson, “Emily doesn’t leave a stone of potential unturned.” She lets us run with our wild ideas for TYAN’s future, and dedicates so much of her life to helping improve the health of adolescents in Texas. To celebrate, Emily has shared her thoughts of what it means to see TYAN turn 5, and where she sees the future of our program going.

From our Director:

TYAN turned 5!

Looking back, the past five years have been a whirlwind.

We started with 4 pilot partners that were willing to test an idea with us and have blossomed to 81 community partners, 6 coalitions, thousands of people trained, and hundreds of technical assistance calls. We learned the value of listening, the beauty of collaboration and connection, and the true meaning of zoom fatigue. (I can’t reflect on the past 5 years and not mention the pandemic).

But, for me personally, this 5 years has taught me something even more important. I have learned that there is no end to the number of caring, motivated, and amazing Texans who want to better their communities. When we first started on this journey, I thought for sure we would run out of potential partners. Instead, our network grows every year and reaches new corners of Texas dedicated to making things better for adolescents and their communities.

Our partners are priceless. I am in awe and inspired by their drive; their impact is unmatched. In this last year alone, these partners have touched over 100,000 Texans in their work. Half of the youth feel more connected to their community and can make more of a difference after being involved in these partnerships. Over 40% feel more control of their own lives, feel better about their future, and are more likely to say no to things that are wrong after participating.

Across the years, we have seen countless examples of the value that comes from bringing youth and adults together. They have organized mental health days, health summits, Red Ribbon Week events, conferences, TED Talks, sports day, community service projects, a community dinner, service-learning projects, and educational events all working towards bettering adolescent health. Youth voice has been integrated more intentionally into community needs assessment, policy development, and program implementation.

None of this would have been possible without the Department of State Health Services Maternal & Child Health and the current and past state adolescent health coordinators. They have been not only a funder but a genuine collaborator. They have provided us with invaluable ideas, guidance, and encouragement.

While it is our 5-year birthday, it is also the season of giving thanks and I have many people and groups that I am grateful for. In no particular order: Thank you to DSHS Maternal & Child Health and specifically to Susan, Cristell, and Carol for trusting and supporting us in this mission.

Thank you to the TYAN team – Ronda, Maddison, Ashley, Dottie, Bethany, George, Christina, Melody, Rachel, and Erin. Not only do they work tirelessly in their roles, but they are also constantly thinking of ways to improve and grow our work. Their enthusiasm is contagious, and I cannot imagine what this program would look like without them. Also thank you to our administrative staff – Megan, Joseph, Penny – and countless others at Texas A&M University who help us implement the program.

Thank you to our partners, our coalitions, and all the organizations who have been involved in TYAN the last five years. It’s been a mutual learning experience and I hope we have impacted your lives as much as you have impacted ours.

And thank you to you! Those of you who are reading this right now – our contacts, our friends, our network. We are a small team compared to the size of Texas. And my motto has always been that we cannot do it alone. We rely on you all to help us act – to spread your knowledge, your compassion, and your genuine desire to make the world better. Thank you for all you do to improve adolescent health.

Cheers to the next five years! I cannot wait to see what comes.


Emily Naiser

TYAN Program Director



Organizations interested in starting or expanding their youth-adult partnerships can apply to be a Community Partner. As a Community Partner, organizations can access to exclusive materials, technical support, funding, and more!