Hancock Youth for Positive Efforts (HYPE), launched in September 2016 and is part of the Hancock County Community Coalition (HCCC). In less than two years, the youth coalition is making a difference within their community. HYPE members are taught intervention, communication, and leadership skills to take back to their schools and inspire community-level change.
“Hancock County Community Coalition serves the four school districts in Hancock County, Mississippi, a coastal town located close enough to New Orleans to feel the “laissez les bon temps rouler” vibe. The “let the good times roll mentality” is a big part of the attraction to the area, along with the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico,” said Rhonda Rhodes, Director. “This culture is a challenge for the coalition’s work. The northern part of the county is very rural and agricultural.”
HYPE members are students in grades sixth through 12th who attend school at the two public school districts, Bay-Waveland, Hancock, or the two Catholic school districts, Our Lady Academy, and Saint Stanislaus. In July of 2017, six HYPE members attended the CADCA Mid-Year Training Institute in Atlanta, Georgia, and trained in over-the-counter medication safety. During Red Ribbon Week, the youth delivered the Scholastics Over-the-Counter Medication safety class to students in the Hancock County and Bay-Waveland School districts. HYPE had an original goal to reach 400 students with this information, but surpassed that goal by reaching 710 students. The coalition also partnered with Hancock County school district to host a community screening of the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Drug Enforcement Agency’s documentary Chasing the Dragon. This event brought together educators, students, parents, and local law enforcement to view what opioid addiction looks like through the eyes of someone who is addicted.
“One of the programs of the Hancock Resource Center, the fiscal agent for the coalition, is the Hancock Youth Leadership Academy (HYLA),” said Rhodes. “HYLA is a county-wide leadership program that provides programs for eighth grade middle school students and high school juniors. This existing program gave the Hancock Community Coalition a head-start to connecting with youth, as well as access to established partnerships with the schools. As a result of this jump start, HCCC brought a youth coalition to the Mid-Year Institute the first year of DFC funding and has impacted nearly 1,000 students in the first full year of the DFC grant through the many community events and ‘HYPE hangouts.’ The existing partnerships also facilitated the baseline data collection, achieving more than a 90 percent response rate from students in grades six through 12.”
“It’s important that young people be given the tools to make change and then are empowered to make that change without interference from adults who “know better,” said Rhodes. “Youth learn much more from failure than they do from success, so providing a safety net but not a rescue is important to letting youth do the work.”