This month, Kahlee Yeldell, CADCA’s Meetings and Exhibits Manager, had the opportunity to attend the first week of CADCA’s National Coalition Academy (NCA) in Charlotte, NC. She recounts her experience and what she learned from working closely with coalition members from across the country:
As a self-confessed newbie to the prevention sector but not-so-new staff member of CADCA, attending week one of the National Coalition Academy in Charlotte, NC I was fortunate to be front and center to a transformative experience. For four days, a diverse group of 48 prevention professionals came together to learn strategies, discover tools and share information with the ultimate goal of returning to their respective communities and enacting change.
My first observation was the diversity of experience in the room. From a coordinator two days on the job to a seasoned director, this group of enthusiastic individuals started their Academy experience hopeful that they would be better equipped to strategize for their coalitions.
The community assessment mapping exercise, during which coalitions created a detailed outline of their towns, cities or counties, was a collective “Aha!” moment. Coalition members identified key hotbeds of activity, prevention, treatment and recovery resources, law enforcement headquarters, schools, faith-based sites and more. As they incorporated different layers of complexity into the exercise, needs and solutions started to fall into place. It was not hard to see how excited people were to immediately begin bringing different parts of their communities together to get them to understand the need and benefit of the work their doing.
Week one proved to be chock full of information, but our agile and experienced trainers Dorothy Chaney and Kristina Clark ensured white space in the agenda and time for both sharing and digestion. It was inspirational to see groups from all over the country open up about their triumphs and struggles. Nearly all the coalitions in the room found common denominators in support and resources they could use to impact their neighborhoods. These similarities became even more apparent during logic model development. Participants could finally see a strategic plan coming together that would help guide their organizations. As the trainers checked-in with the group, I could tell each person was appreciative, eager to apply the wealth of information and tangible skills they were learning during week one.
After a week spent learning and engaging with the Charlotte cohort I feel invigorated that my role as Exhibits Manager at CADCA will bridge the needs of coalitions with those who can provide the most relevant and innovative resources at both the National Leadership Forum and the Mid-Year Training Institute. The National Coalition Academy in Charlotte gave me quite a bit of food for thought but, more importantly, ended with 48 new prevention warriors inspired to keep striving for healthy communities and feeling that they have a support system equally ready to conquer their community’s biggest issues.