Coalitions in Action: Idaho Teens Rising Above Peer Pressure

For the last 12 years, the Bonneville Youth Development Council (BYDC) in Idaho Falls, ID, has coordinated an annual conference for 8th to 12th graders under the creative banner, Teens Rising Above Peer Pressure Every Day - Students Oppose Booze Everyone’s Rewarded (T.R.A.P.P.E.D.  S.O.B.E.R.). This year’s conclave took place from November 2-5, with 90 youths participating from all over Bonneville County – the coalition’s largest turnout ever!

Bonneville County is located in southeast Idaho, part of the Upper Snake River Valley, and borders with Wyoming on the east. Idaho Falls, originally called Eagle Rock, is the county seat.  Other incorporated cities include Ammon, Iona, Irwin, Swan Valley, and Ucon. The county has a population of 104,000, with 58,000 residing in Idaho Falls. There are four junior highs, five high schools, and two alternative schools.

T.R.A.P.P.E.D.  S.O.B.E.R. provides a forum for the discussion of positive, alternative choices for the youth in our county,” explains Alisha Passey, Coordinator of the Bonneville Youth Development Council. “The conference is also a remarkable team-building effort, which enables us to put together a core group of youth leaders who we will work with over the next year to prevent substance abuse in the county.”

This year’s conference began after school on Wednesday, November 2, and continued all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with all activities building on each other. The first day and a half of the conference focused on team building skills and substance abuse topics. It culminated with a town hall meeting on Saturday night with their peers, adult advisors, and family and friends where participants shared what they had learned.

For the first time in the history of the conference, youth and adult advisors were divided into five impact teams based on BYDC’s logic models and priorities. The topics discussed were youth marijuana use, youth prescription drug abuse, youth vaping, and underage drinking. The social and service impact team was added to increase community bonding and provided opportunities for teenagers to learn how to pay it forward. Each participant ranked the topic he or she felt most passionate about and together they looked at the problem and developed strategies by examining the following:

  • What were the root causes of the problem?
  • What were the risk factors?
  • Why was the problem occurring in Bonneville County?
  • What strategies can we develop to address this problem?

While everyone was briefed on all the topics, each team spent time focusing on their individual area of interest; developed seven comprehensive action strategies; and reported back to the full convention body and guests at the town hall.

“This summer we took a group of youths to Mid-Year, and they went through Key Essentials Training,” Passey further explained. “The kids really caught fire and were motivated to explore new ways to develop team-building skills and to educate their peers and the community about substance misuse using logic models, data analysis, and sustainability plans.”

Some of the things the impact teams want to address over the coming year include:

  • Preventing underage drinking at community events
  • Supporting efforts for more local data collection
  • Adding another prescription drop box location
  • Increasing use of our current drop box

Remarkably, the costs of the conference and all the expenses including the room and board for the youth participants were subsidized by a combination of resources. They included funds from the Substance Abuse Block Grant Prevention Services, Bonneville County, and coalition fundraising efforts.  This extra support ensured that the 90 young people were able to attend the conference at no personal cost.