Many coalitions who have brought youth to CADCA’s Annual Mid-Year Training Institute know the transformative power the week of training can hold for young leaders. Last July, ECHO Coalition had their first opportunity to attend Mid-Year and bring along two students from their Youth Advisory Council (YAC) to participate in the Key Essentials track. Through this interactive course, ECHO’s YAC members got an introduction to prevention and coalition work through the lens of the Strategic Prevention Framework and created a Logic Model, Community Assessment, Interventions and an Action Plan to guide their future efforts.
The key issue that the YAC members identified as their problem of focus, was students vaping nicotine in school. As they spent the week networking with youth from across the country, they were able to exchange ideas and hear how other communities were addressing similar substance-related issues. That’s when the idea was sparked to seek out installing vape detectors in their schools.
“It was really helpful to be able to follow up with people I met at Mid-Year who had already implemented this strategy about where to get the detectors and how to find funding for them,” shared ECHO coalition’s Youth Advisor, Susan Ingram. “The CADCA community was also a great resource to get any additional questions answered and learn from the people who had already done this before me.”
Upon returning from Mid-Year, the two YAC students who attended were able to share their products and the wealth of knowledge they gained with their peers. Together, they further refined their Logic Model and decided to move forward with their plan of advocating for vape detectors by creating a presentation they could share with their school.
“After compiling all of our evidence and ironing out the products, we invited the principal to sit in on one of our YAC meetings. Each student had a part in the presentation and were asked to speak about what they were seeing and why they believed this was important. He was really impressed by the Logic Model they created, and overall, was very interested in what they had to say,” said Susan. “That experience can be so impactful, because it means a lot to the students to feel like their voices matter and that he really took what they were saying seriously.”
After taking some time to consider the proposition, the principal shared that they will be installing vape detectors in the elementary, middle and high school prior to the start of the next school year. Additionally, he offered an opportunity to the students to begin speaking during school announcements to educate their peers on the dangers of various substances.
“I’m extremely proud of my students for speaking up and being able to make an impact in this way,” said Susan. “Substance use prevention is not always something people want to talk about, but I always tell them to never stop speaking up, because there will always be someone who will want to hear what they have to say.”
“The most rewarding thing for me in this role is getting kids that come from all walks of life, and seeing them step into the unknown, develop a voice and not let what anyone says about them stop them from stepping into their purpose. I saw this change happen within the two young ladies I brought to Mid-Year, and I see it happening among the rest of the YAC members as they become more involved in prevention efforts.”
This July, Susan will bring another small group of YAC members to the Mid-Year Training Institute and looks forward to another opportunity to expand their coalition’s capacity and empower the students to make a difference in their community.