For some, a ‘me’ generation can be rather narcissistic. But in the case of Collaborating For Youth’s (CFY) Youth Coalition of Adams County, Pa., ‘me’ can actually be a good thing, a positive one, in fact. The youth coalition designed and implemented its county-wide “Who’s Looking Out For ME?” positive messaging campaign as a way to help students living with or experiencing symptoms of depression.
“This campaign asked students to identify the people who ‘had their back’,” said CFY programs manager and youth mentor, Samiah Slusser.
Slusser believes the CFY coalition members didn’t have a second to themselves as they shared their campaign at CADCA’s National Leadership Forum’s Ideas Fair. They received the “People’s Choice” peer-nominated award for their presentation.
“As a mentor for the youth, I was so impressed with their presentation – they probably talked to a few hundred other coalition members about their campaign,” Slusser noted.
Youth coalition members reviewed data from the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS) and were concerned about the number of their peers who indicated they had experienced symptoms of depression within the past year.
Sharron Michels, coalition Executive Director/ Drug Free Communities Director, explained that the youth decided to focus the campaign not just on depression but also on other risk factors that impact youth drug use.
“They decided to focus on protective factors that protect youth against drug and alcohol use. Among those protective factors are bonding (connection) to a peer, their family, their church, their school, someone or place in their community,” Michels said.
Although the coalition has had youth participation since its inception, in 2009 they partnered with the Pennsylvania National Guard to develop a leadership camp as a method for recruiting and training youth coalition members. Their first camp consisted of 24 youth and 10 adult mentors. As a result, their annual summer camp and their youth participation has grown.
“We have such an increase of interest in the county-wide Youth Coalition by students’ who participated in the “Who’s Looking Out For Me?” campaign. Some have joined the county-wide coalition and are waiting for this year’s leadership camp anxiously. Others have been active through two school-based youth coalition groups piloted this year as a result of the positive messaging campaign, and are waiting to attend the camp prior to becoming members of the county-wide coalition,” Slusser said.
Involvement in the schools for the positive messaging campaign has eased the recruitment efforts for the leadership camp and there are now active youth coalition members in all six of their county’s public school districts.
Slusser states that the campaign met all their objectives such as engaging youth from different schools in positive messaging and applying survey data to real life, but the best lesson her youth taught adults is that engaging youth in their efforts is key to their success.
“The activities that are most successful are youth initiated and implemented and adult guided,” she said.
The Adams County CFY Youth Coalition and its positive messaging campaign are featured in the latest addition of CADCA’s Coalition Ideas Exchange.
CADCA’s Coalition Ideas Exchange provides coalitions access the latest information from other organizations across the country that are implementing innovative strategies and interventions to address substance abuse in their communities. The information comes directly from coalitions with the goal of providing resources, actionable steps and recommendations for applying these ideas to work in other communities.
To learn more about the ACT Coalition and the Coalition Ideas Exchange, visitwww.cadca.org/ideasexchange.