CADCA Publisher July 1, 2024

An Interview with Impact Prevention

We sat down with Dr. Raffle’s co-authors at Impact Prevention, Mollie Stevens and Meagan Joseph, to talk more about their chapter of The Cambridge Handbook of Community Empowerment, their coalition, and the work they are doing in their communities.

Impact Prevention is a youth-led, adult-guided coalition focused on improving the lives of the youth and the community that they serve wherever they can. Mollie emphasized that they meet the youth wherever they are, “We go into school districts once a month and work with the youth on the team, and their adult ally at the school, and then meet independently. Each school we work with submits information for the Ohio Healthy Youth Environment Survey to help pinpoint what needs to be worked on and then we help them through that process.”

Meagan added some of the difficulties the coalition faces in working with students and how youth participating sets them up for future success, “We’re under resourced, we live in a food desert, this area was at one point in the opioid belt. So, we have this underlying current of things, but we have young people that are trying to adapt to these hardships through youth-led prevention. Youth learn strategies to help them overcome obstacles, collaborate with one another and ease disparities that help them become successful down the road–to help make our community one that isn’t defined by poverty.”

The coalition employs the same framework that Dr. Raffle’s Adult Allies uses to identify the community’s problem points and what solutions could solve them. Mollie added, “The Strategic Prevention Framework is a logic model map that we use that shows the data point that the youth decide is the most important issue that they see, and then the framework describes what the strategy is going to be to correct that and what the long term solution is—what success might look like.”

Ultimately, the coalition takes its mission of being youth-led seriously. Helping adult mentors recognize their ‘adultism’ and serve as a guiding and assisting force for the youths leading the initiatives. “We want youths to see the value in working side-by-side with adults and almost more importantly have adults see the value in working side-by-side with youths. We really emphasize to the adults that the youth have a voice and are the future of our community,” Meagan said. “The more exposed adults are to working with youth and seeing the value in it, the more equipped they are to continue to do that and see the voice and power that youths actually have,” Mollie added.

The communities served by Impact Prevention are diverse so helping adult organizers recognize that their coalition is stronger with diversity is part of the process. “We want our adult participants to be culturally aware and competent. So, we ask: are you empowering all students that you see in the school? Do you have students that are LGBTQ+ from the community? Do you have students that might be living in foster care? Do you have students who have transportation disparities? Then once we ask those questions and they see the gaps we ask: what can you do to fill those gaps?”

Beyond the important prevention and advocacy work that the coalition does, Mollie and Meagan see the impact of the coalition’s programs on the youth that participate. “It’s fun to be able to see that so many of our young people go on to have productive careers. You know there are phlebotomists, nursing estheticians, four of our own employees are a product of youth-led prevention. They’re better equipped for the workplace based on what they’ve learned with us,” Mollie said.

The coalition hosts events, trainings, and programs year-round for those that want to get involved in their community. The Suicide Prevention Walk brings together organizations from across the community to raise awareness on suicide prevention tactics and resources. As the event has grown over the years, it has added new organizations and grown to include things like luminary launches and floodwall art. “They gave space for people who have had family members or are suicide survivors to say the name of their loved one and something they loved about them. We have a lot of creative young people, and they want to do more and more each year,” Meagan said.

What advice does Impact Prevention have for other youth-led community coalitions? “You need to stay the course. Quit taking it personal. Be consistent, celebrate your small wins, celebrate your big wins, celebrate a lot. Always be thankful and humble for people who show up and take their time to be part of anything that you’re working on,” Mollie said.

To learn more about Impact Prevention and their initiatives, click here.

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