August 29, 2019

Coalitions in Action — Center for Urban Youth and Family Development Helps Youth Fight Adversity

“Our community serves the northwest side of Detroit,” said Center for Urban Youth and Family Development President Marsialle Arbuckle. “Detroit is located in Wayne County, Michigan, and is the largest city in the state. In just five years, the city of Detroit’s population dropped from 713,777 (2010) to 690,074 (2015). The population is approximately 83% African American, 11% White, 0.4% American Indian and 1% Asian with 6.8% identifying as Hispanic/Latino of any race. Although the national narrative is that Detroit is on the rebound, it still faces a tremendous uphill battle, especially in the communities outside of downtown. While unemployment has dropped from a 2013 high of 21% to 10% in December of 2016, the city continues to experience overwhelming poverty (39%) and a foreclosure crisis.”

“The Center for Urban Youth and Family Development (the Center) started in 2011 as a community-based nonprofit providing support to youth in and transitioning out of the foster care system,” said Arbuckle. “Fostered youth emerge from the foster care system vulnerable to substance misuse with little opportunity to obtain higher education and/or develop life skills. The Center for Urban Youth and Family Development empowers youth to overcome struggles and challenges by providing them with substance misuse prevention resources, life skills training, and workforce development programs. The Coalition for Urban Youth and Family Development (CUYFD) was established in 2015 to provide a formal mechanism to not only inform but support a more comprehensive substance misuse prevention initiative targeting the west side of Detroit.”

“Our coalition is situated in a community that is facing high rates of poverty, crime, substance misuse, instances of trauma and mental health issues, amongst a number of other issues,” said Arbuckle. “Additionally, although this is a community ready for change, it is difficult to get high rates of participation at times because of limited public transportation. We also face barriers working with local schools due to large amounts of bureaucratic red tape we must go through to engage youth in schools.”

“We would like to highlight our Underage Drinking Prevention Town Halls,” said Arbuckle. “They were both great events that were impactful not only to our community, but also to our coalition. Our first event featured Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who gave a great talk about substance misuse and how it’s affected her and her family personally. Our second event featured local community activist Emmitt Mitchell who gave a memorable speech encouraging youth to wait when it comes to trying drinking. The most important part of these events was the feedback we got from our youth panels regarding underage drinking and smoking. We were able to glean valuable firsthand information about what’s going on in our community and use that information to guide our action plan.”

“We implemented the Strategic Prevention Framework in the development of our underage drinking prevention approach,” said Arbuckle. “We’re also utilizing the data that we gathered to develop and implement an environmental strategy by impacting local policy as it relates to the sale of alcohol and tobacco products to underage youth. We learned from our panel discussions and focus group sessions that youth are approached in the parking lots and lobbies of convenience stores, so we plan to work with local law enforcement to enhance loitering violation ordinances in these places. We also used community education strategy by creating engaging prevention marketing materials like infographics with data about underage drinking.” 

“Another highlight of our activities was our Drug Take-Back Day, where we gathered eight pounds of expired prescription drugs from the community and distributed educational prevention materials in collaboration with Michigan Open,” said Arbuckle. “We also worked with the Detroit Pistons on a ‘Hugs not Drugs’ campaign where we promoted wellness and substance misuse prevention during a pre-game event that received national television exposure.”

“Engaging youth is the number one piece of advice that we can give,” said Arbuckle. “Although it is a cornerstone of the Drug-Free Communities (DFC) program, asking youth directly about what’s going on in the community and how they think it can be addressed will give the best guidance possible. Letting youth lead and find their voices has played a key part in guiding our coalition’s plan of action.”

“We’re really proud to be a part of the DFC and CADCA community and we look forward to continuing the work, and trying to make our community better,” said Arbuckle. “We’ve learned so much from our CADCA trainings and it’s truly strengthened our coalition, which will help us make some real change in our community.”

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