In Dallas County, Alabama, the Drug Free Dallas County coalition reached thousands all over the country by facilitating a drug-free song and video, written and created by coalition youth.
“The video really started off as a talent show. The coalition hosted a Drug-Free Talent Show and a lot of the youth ended up rapping or singing about being drug-free,” said Jerria Martin, Director of Drug Free Dallas County. “We came up with the idea that each winner from each show would make one drug-free song and video. The video went viral, reaching 23,000 views and coalitions across the country are re-sharing!”
The lyrics, instruments and stars were all kids from Dallas County, which is best known for its biggest city – historic Selma. The coalition serves the county’s population of 40,000 people, although Martin notes that the population has seen many changes in the past years after the local Air Force base closed in the 1990s, increasing poverty and drug abuse in the area.
The coalition will be reaching its first year this October, serving 30 schools in the area, including public and private schools. With a high volume of youth, the coalition created Junior Hope Dealers in every middle and high school in the county. Teachers serve as advisors to the school’s Hope Dealers, approximately 10 – 15 per school, although as many as 30 students participate in some schools.
The youth have a seat at the coalition’s table and play a role in the coalition’s activity, such as a recent pep rally at Selma Hospital, which welcomed 1,500 students and approximately 60 community leaders, including school board members and local sheriffs. Local sectors also participate in the coalition’s radio show: “The Hope Show,” which airs once a month. Police chiefs, council members, local rehabilitation organizations give their testimony and perspective to bring hope to the community. The radio show emphasizes a drug-free message and reaches 100,000 people in the community each month.
“You have to have the youth at the table. We are in every school and it has made a huge impact. Even just being year one, we have something going on every week at school. Keep the kids involved and give them an active role,” Martin advises fellow coalitions. “They will shock you, they moved me and the community. Everyone can be a stakeholder and can help shed light on drug abuse from their organization.”