STAND, based in Scott County, Tennessee, is a coalition comprised of community organizations, businesses and individuals focused on the health and well-being of the youth. Earlier this summer, the youth coalition held their first Coalition Carnival to raise awareness about the work of Scott County’s nonprofit organizations and celebrate the end of the school year.
“We have a very active youth coalition that is about 80 members strong and run by a Youth Board. As the popular phrase goes, it is ‘youth-led and adult-guided.’ We let them make the decisions and come up with projects, and they have to do the research,” says Executive Director, Trent Coffey.
“They do a project each quarter that they decide on, which can vary from food drives, clothing drives, educational events or town halls. This spring, one of the youth members brought up an idea to the Youth Board of Directors – the idea has to be voted on – to have an appreciation day that celebrated getting through a difficult school year during the pandemic. So, we came up with the idea of calling it a carnival, but I also refer to it more as a field day, since we didn’t have any electronic rides.”
“I let them develop and bring me proposals as they went through the planning process. I asked them what kind of budget they needed, and they didn’t know at first, so I taught them how to create one.”
“The premise of the event was to host something positive and good, and not just shove information down people’s throats. The youth members had to come up with their own games that we supplied prizes for. Each child won a prize if they played a game. Although minimal, it was something.”
“These games were really retro, like sack races, cup toss, pong, cornhole and different little games like that. Along with that, we also involved all the other nonprofits in the area to have booths set up, provide information if asked and let the community and youth know that their services are available. We also had a youth band from one of the schools that played the entire time, and we provided hot dogs, chips, a snow cone and a drink for free to everyone.”
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years, and I’ve seen so many of these things flop because of not getting a good amount of participation. All coalitions go through that, but I was going to be happy if 75 people showed up. By the way, to gain entrance to the carnival, we asked people as they walked in if they wanted to hear more information about the youth coalition and if they were interested in joining. If they said yes, they signed up and were sent information after the event.”
“By the end of the carnival, we had over 325 kids come in and participate. Everyone had a good time, it was just low-key, slow-paced fun. Back to a retro time where we could just enjoy talking with one another. It went really, really well. I was really enthused, and I’ve got as much positive feedback on this event as I have on anything that we’ve done as a coalition in the past 25 years.”
“That was 325 signed commitments of participation or coalition agreements from the event, which meant that we had even more attendance than that, if we also counted the adults that brought them and the kids that are already in the coalition. So, there were roughly 350 to 360 people that attended the event. That’s 325 students that gave us their emails, their phone number and said that they were interested in becoming a part of the coalition. In a rural community of 22,000 people, that’s amazing.”
“Basically, all that we used to promote the event was social media. The space for the carnival was donated by the city park, so we only paid for the food and a few supplies. It was well worth the investment for it, we just came up with the money for the food and trinkets that the kids won.”
“The best thing that came out of this event was the exposure and the sharing of information about what the coalition does. The event also involved sectors and different youth in the community that we may not have access to, like the junior high and elementary school kids. Also, the law enforcement officers and nonprofits that came were so happy that it was such a success, so it strengthened those partnerships greatly that they were able to take part in this event.”