Coalitions in Action - Pledge for Life Partnership Finds New Ways to Continue Youth Programming

 

“The Pledge for Life Partnership (PfL) is a volunteer-driven coalition of concerned citizens working to improve the quality of life in Kankakee and Iroquois Counties in Illinois,” said the Coalition’s Drug-Free Communities Grant Project Coordinator Jim Schreiner. “Members work to find solutions to the issues of school failure, substance misuse, juvenile delinquency and other life-compromising behaviors. Established in 1989, PfL supports environmental strategies and multi-sector initiatives that help families address behavior expectations and consequences with their children regarding destructive behaviors and negative influences, particularly underage use of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs. Throughout Kankakee and Iroquois counties, the Pledge for Life Partnership is recognized as a valuable community partner because of its history of 30 years of working towards a safer and healthier community.”

“One of the major successes in the fight against substance misuse has been the use of our Life Education Centers programs,” said Schreiner. “The Life Education Center’s unique substance misuse prevention programs teach kids the skills they need to choose healthy lifestyles and avoid the dangers caused by using alcohol and other dangerous substances. Beginning in kindergarten and continuing throughout middle school, the Life Education Centers travel to local schools delivering age appropriate curriculum inside modified mobile units and teaching students about healthy lifestyles.”

“Topics for the Life Education Center’s trainings include the human body and how it works, good nutrition and exercise and the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco and other substances,” said Schreiner. “The Life Education Centers also teach the skills students will need to deal with pressures from peers and society, supporting social and emotional development.  “

“Due to COVID-19 restrictions in schools, our Life Education Center educators are adjusting implementation strategies and providing remote learning and resource opportunities,” said Schreiner. “The Life Education Center programs are provided through the Iroquois-Kankakee Regional Office of Education, in collaboration with the Pledge for Life Partnership. The Director of Life Education programming, Brenda Wetzel, and the Life Education Center educators have been instrumental in creating virtual programming. The entire curriculum is going virtual using tools such as the Google education suite, Screencastify and video editing software such as Camtasia. The Life Education Center educators are delivering content to classroom teachers by sharing videos they have created in order to help foster the discussion while on Zoom or Google meetings, or other e-learning platforms.”

“This is a huge undertaking, but as we continue to push on through the pandemic, we are discovering new ways to foster success,” said Wetzel. “We are proud of the work we are doing and want others to realize that, while COVID-19 has definitely hindered the work of our coalition, it has also provided opportunities for us to learn new ways to deliver the message of prevention and healthy lifestyle choices.”

“Many of the ideas we are using to present the curriculum were taken from CADCA’s Virtual Mid-Year Conference,” said Schreiner. “I had just been recently hired as the new DFC coordinator and had only been in this position for a few weeks, so it was a little overwhelming at first. However, many of our local coalitions throughout Illinois and the Midwest region were in attendance during Mid-Year and when I reached out to them, they were very open and accommodating to my questions. The Virtual Mid-Year conference was very helpful, as it gave me the tools I needed to get our coalition moving into a virtual mindset. I look forward to attending this year's National Leadership Forum and hope to be able to strengthen our coalition's ability to continue to move forward in the COVID-19 landscape.”