Be the Influence (BTI) Coalition is based in the beautiful Sebago Lake community in Windham/Raymond Maine on the outskirts of Portland, Maine. The coalition was started in 2012, but received DFC funding in 2015 to meet the increasing needs of the market. Since that time, Be the Influence coalition has been a major force in educating the community on prevention and working hard to reduce youth marijuana usage.
Significant impact made by the coalition include:
- Changed policies
- Launched successful media campaigns
- Hosted a “Stay in the Game” Dodgeball Tournament
- Reduced use in “hot spot” areas
- Introduced effective curriculum in all health classes
- Trained youth for peer-to-peer theatrical programs
- Expanded significantly as the coalition grew five-fold each year
One of the activities that has proven successful and unique is a Community Wide Art Mural. With a population of around 24,000 people, Windham and Raymond share one high school, but the middle and elementary schools are separate and building connections between area youth can be a challenge. With that in mind, BTI commissioned artists Joyce Neuenswander e Lucia Kincheloe to outline a professional mural that any youth could participate in completing. This 14’ X 5’ foot banner traveled from school to school in Raymond and Windham, as well as libraries and festivals and engaged over 250 youth; including those who don’t usually participate in any other after school projects.
“The result was amazing! Not only were the youth excited to contribute, but they took pride in a drug-free, educational message that will travel to different venues each month reminding our community of their commitment for a healthy future,” said Laura Morris, Project Director.
The mural was launched at a Sebago Lake Chamber Ribbon cutting attracting almost 100 people and obtaining media coverage. At present, it hangs on the wall in the Windham Middle School. A social media campaign allows members to answer trivia questions for prizes in order to guess where the mural will be hung and show up next.