“Equity Starts with Everyone”
Wednesday, March 13, 2024
Written by Sue Murray, Volunteer Spotlight Writer

Matthew (Matt) Tsao, a senior member of the boys’ volleyball team at Bishop Montgomery High School, dreams of an equitable society, where all people live through the transformative power of nutrition and health.

This dream led him to create a non-profit organization, ALIGN, which focuses on health equity projects intended to help the less fortunate. Partnering with related organizations like LA Works, Matt and his ALIGN teammates focus on projects like assembling disaster kits for the unhoused or migrants living near the border.

For the past year, Matt has also been a member of Beach Cities Health District’s Youth Advisory Council, a youth-led committee consisting of 52 students in grades 8 – 12, focusing on the health needs of their Beach Cities peers. Matthew’s work has promoted students' health and well-being by participating in substance use prevention and mental health campaigns.

Through his work with BCHD, he learned of the new allcove Beach Cities youth center and its focus on supporting the mental and physical health of young people ages 12 to 25. Last August, Matt signed up as an allcove Peer Health Assistant and has been able to research, analyze and report on fitness, nutrition, health equity and wellness aspects of young people's lives, supporting a nutrition project focused on the effect nutrition has on mental health.

“My vision is perfectly aligned with allcove; to achieve equity in our community by providing the support and guidance that all young people need to thrive”, explains Matt. "I like volunteering with allcove because it gives me the chance to learn more about mental health issues affecting today's youth. I am also able to learn about and conduct research on health and nutrition and how it affects the overall health of young people."

Mathew has also participated in BCHD’s teen Mental Health First Aid certification training, where he learned how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental health and substance use challenges among fellow youth and young adults. By completing this course, he showed his desire to create a supportive environment by encouraging open conversations about mental health and substance use challenges.

In addition to his volunteer work at BCHD and ALIGN, Matthew manages to juggle many other projects dedicated to the overall wellness of his community. As a result of his work and his devotion to these causes, he has been nominated for the Health & Empowerment Award for the LA Civic Leadership & Impact award and last year was awarded the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, acknowledged by President Biden.

Matt shared this for people thinking about volunteering: “My advice for other (potential) volunteers is to take advantage of their ability to help others. We are all connected in this community and every volunteer contributes in their own unique way to the health and wellness of our society.”

What’s next for Matt? He is currently applying to colleges to study science and health and is trying to decide between pre-med, or possibly a business major with the plan of establishing a nutritional supplement company.