“The Steuben Prevention Coalition was formed in 1991,” said the coalition’s Prevention Coordinator Colleen Banik. “In 2009, the coalition applied for and received the Mentee/Mentor grant and then applied for and received the Drug Free Communities grant in 2013. Already challenged by disproportionately high levels of youth alcohol and marijuana use and favorable youth and adult attitudes surrounding use, the coalition’s most significant obstacle, then and now, is geographic distance covering a rural agricultural county the size of Rhode Island with 13 individual school districts and a population of 97,361.”
“Not being able to collaborate face to face and hold in person events and interact with our members, volunteers and youth due to COVID-19 has been extremely challenging,” said Banik. “According to Monitoring the Future Survey Data, we ranked higher than the national average in 12 areas, including youth alcohol use, binge drinking, marijuana use, e-cigarette/vaping use and heroin use.”
“We would like to spotlight our Youth Engagement Project where coalition members, volunteers, youth and staff came together virtually and asked our youth to produce peer to peer video messaging involving our Prevention Needs Assessment Data,” said Banik. “These students focused on alcohol statistics, marijuana statistics, binge drinking statistics, medication safe disposal and energy drink awareness. This program is ongoing and gaining traction, receiving encouraging responses from additional youth wanting to become involved now that the word is out, and videos are being posted on Facebook and the coalition’s YouTube channel. Additionally, several other school districts have expressed interest in participating in the fall. Our targeted youth took on this project and enthusiastically ran with it, producing 11 awareness videos over a two-month period.”
“We’re always thrilled and so proud when our students can find ways to make positive contributions to our communities and the nation and state at large,” said Peter Reynolds, High School Principal for Canisteo-Greenwood Central School.
“This project specifically fulfills the strategies of providing Information, building skills for both students and staff, who learned the process of interpreting assessment data and video production, and providing support through community outreach to reduce risk factors and enhance protective factors,” said Banik.
“The advice I have for other coalitions is to never give up,” said Banik. “Continue to engage your volunteer members, school districts, partnership agencies and, most importantly, your youth. The Steuben Prevention Coalition has attended many CADCA Mid-Years and Forums and always takes back a wealth of knowledge and new ideas to implement into our planning.”