Better Brodhead, a community coalition in south central Wisconsin, is focused on reducing youth substance use, bullying and dating violence in the Brodhead School District area. The school district’s geographical area includes the city of Brodhead, a large rural area that crosses county lines and includes farmland, forests, and waterways.
In the past, one challenge that Better Brodhead faced is increasing youth involvement in the coalition. In 2014 and 2015, Better Brodhead had only two active youth members. This increased to six active students in 2016. With the goal of increasing youth membership and involvement, Better Brodhead developed, with the help of their youth members, a social norms campaign implemented during prom season that used social media to get the message across to students.
The campaign ‘#BeTheMajority’ included printed posters at schools and social media messages that promoted alcohol use prevention. #BeTheMajority became the recognized social norming message for the youth coalition. A #BeTheMajority banner and Instagram booth provided students with opportunities to post and share their #BeTheMajority photos online. Photos were posted to the youth Instagram account and shared with Better Brodhead’s Facebook page, increasing traffic to the Better Brodhead Facebook page.
The signed #BeTheMajority banner was hung up at the high school and the sharing of Instagram photos created a momentum that encouraged additional students to get involved in the work of the coalition.
With the success of the prom campaign, the coalition focused on developing a similar campaign around homecoming the following school year. With the help of a graphic artist, local students posed for photos that were used for ‘Respect your Selfie’ posters. The selfie campaign included positive messages of resisting peer pressure. The Selfie posters included: Respect Your Selfie, Take Care of Your Selfie, Make Decisions for Your Selfie, Be Your Selfie, and Respect Other Selfies.’ Posters with these messages combined with the #BeTheMajority message were posted around the school and online and reinforced the alcohol prevention message. Better Brodhead youth members staffed an information booth at homecoming, distributed prevention materials, and offered opportunities for students to have their photos taken in a ‘Take Care of Your Selfie’ Snapchat photo frame.
Youth involvement in the coalition continues to grow. In two years, youth involvement has increased from two students to over 60 students. This increase has also led to a stronger collaboration with the school and a more vibrant engaged coalition.
“Authentic involvement of youth in the planning and implementation process includes allowing them to have a voice in the decisions made. Youth were provided training opportunities on leadership, advocacy, substance use prevention strategies so they had the skills to develop youth-led prevention activities,” said Kathy Comeau, Program Director at Better Brodhead. “Adults supported the youth, but allowed youth to lead the process. This process empowered youth to own these campaigns, and inspired other youth to get involved.”