Regina Meyerchick, affectionately referred to as “GG” by community members, has been a pivotal force behind the growth and success of the Washington Parish Youth Coalition. Over the past seven years, the coalition, under GG’s leadership, has burgeoned from a small group of six students to an influential force comprising 167 young prevention advocates.
GG’s journey with the coalition began during her last year of teaching when she joined a tobacco prevention initiative event with a group of students. Captivated by the potential impact and inspired by the program’s vision, GG decided to dedicate her retirement to working with these young leaders.
In the early years, the coalition experienced steady growth, with GG’s efforts leading to the inclusion of more schools and students. A turning point occurred when the coalition shifted from merely attending conferences to active engagement and community outreach. They initiated a Day of Action, involving surprise flash mobs and impactful presentations at multiple schools, reaching hundreds of students in a single day. This dynamic approach significantly contributed to the coalition’s growth, making it a recognized force in the community.
A distinctive feature of the coalition is its commitment to diversity, ensuring a broad representation of voices by involving students with varied interests. GG emphasizes that reaching out to all students is essential for addressing substance misuse comprehensively.
The coalition’s activities span a wide spectrum, from school presentations and town hall meetings to summer camps and festivals. Their visibility, reinforced by wearing distinctive matching sapphire blue shirts, has turned them into a recognizable and respected presence in the community, leading to numerous invitations to events and further expanding their reach.
One critical strategy employed by the coalition is the focus on empowering youth to become effective speakers. GG believes that young voices are crucial in combating misinformation and fostering a better-informed community. The coalition’s success in training youth to confidently speak on various platforms is evident in their participation at school boards, town halls, and other public forums.
In addition to their ongoing efforts, the coalition has actively contributed to policy change. GG shared an instance where they played a role in advocating for a social hosting policy. While grant restrictions prevent them from directly engaging in policy advocacy, the coalition collaborated with local leaders and involved their youth in presenting data and statistics that supported the need for such a policy.
Another core activity of the coalition has been the execution of over 100 classroom peer-to-peer prevention presentations, which have served as crucial platforms for educating peers and community members about the risks associated with substance misuse.
The coalition’s engagement with the community has been extensive, with participation in events such as the Washington Parish Fair, Watermelon Festival, Police n Pals Day, Community Unity Day, Back to School Bash, and more. Their involvement in the National Sticker Shock and Share Your Story Campaigns, along with virtual training sessions and collaboration with the Louisiana DEA, additionally showcases a comprehensive approach to addressing substance misuse at both grassroots and policy levels.
The coalition’s efforts have yielded remarkable outcomes, including a 46% annual growth in the youth coalition, indicating a growing momentum in their mission. Their extensive awareness campaigns have reached over 500,000 individuals, fostering a broad understanding of the challenges posed by substance misuse.
In conclusion, the Washington Parish Youth Coalition’s commitment to education, advocacy, and community engagement has not only generated impressive outreach numbers but has also fostered a more informed, engaged, and proactive community. As they continue to grow and evolve, the coalition stands as a testament to the power of youth-led initiatives in creating lasting, positive change.