I was drawn to the world of prevention at the age of twelve after I reflected upon the time my dad and I were sideswiped by a drunk driver. That same year, after I joined my local coalition, my worldview changed. I created a youth-led organization named PANDAA (People Against Nicotine Drug and Alcohol Addiction) to raise awareness regarding substance abuse among youth in communities. With the help of my coalition, I was able to use this organization as a tool to reach out to youth. I was given the opportunity to work with adults who took me seriously and believed in my collaborative efforts and critical thinking skills.
The greatest experience I have had with my coalition so far was when I attended my first NYLI during Mid-Year in 2015. This was the first time in my life I realized the power and impact youth truly have. I was energized and beyond inspired by all of the incredible trainers and youth around me. I immediately knew that I wanted to get more involved with CADCA.
A year later, I attended another Mid-Year, but by this time I had begun my trainer in trainer process for the NYLI. During this training, I made a friend who happened to have connections with coalition members around the area that I attend school. With the right connections and phone calls, I was in close contact with local coalition members around that area.
A few months later, I began attending coalition meetings on Thursdays, but I was still frustrated because there was a gap between school and my coalition work. I wanted to bring the two together and create an opportunity for other kids to see how rewarding prevention work truly is.
Driven by a desire for success and curiosity, I wrote a proposal for a substance abuse awareness group on campus that was given to the deans and counselors of my school. Fortunately, after a year of planning and overcoming some setbacks, the group was approved! Since this approval, the group has had several successful meetings, including an introductory meeting and two sessions to learn prevention terminology using terms from CADCA’s NYLI workbook. We plan to finish the school year with a meet and greet with coalition members and individuals who are experienced in this field.
Without CADCA, I would not be in the privileged position I am in to not only lead individuals my age and show them the beauty of this field, but also be given the opportunity to one day become an official CADCA trainer. I get to work with people who make me want to be a better version of myself, I’ve formed friendships with people I consider family, and I get to do what I love: empower youth. I am forever grateful for everything that CADCA has provided me, and I’m dedicated to continuing my journey with CADCA for many years to come.