Coalitions in Action— Project ALERT Coalition Provides Support in a Judgment-Free Zone
Project Adolescents Life Education through Resistance Training (ALERT) Coalition’s impact area is the eastside corridor of San Antonio, within an area of 11.6 miles. The population of the area is 39,782 people, of which 52% are Hispanic and 42% are African American. This target area has been referred to as the 11th poorest neighborhood in the country, with an average income of $25,000 per year. The community is hampered by high levels of violence, brought on by the prevalence of drugs.
Project ALERT was formed in San Antonio in 2013. During this time, the need for prevention was further exacerbated by the fact that the available treatment programs couldn’t handle all the young people in need of treatment, and funds for substance misuse treatment were becoming less available.
“Our program is campus-based,” said Project ALERT Program Director Teresa Williams, “with our focus on the students at George Gervin Academy's middle and high schools.”
“We have 43 youth active in our coalition,” said Williams. “Our youth regularly participate in food distribution at a low-income elderly residence. Project ALERT also hosts bi-monthly summits at the middle school, where the youth are responsible for organizing and facilitating the program. The youth decide what the topics will be and interview the speakers, focusing on underage drinking and substance misuse. They also felt it vital to incorporate anti-bullying and sex education messaging into their summits. The youth have served over 1000 people in the community with these events.”
“The coalition has focused on underage drinking this year,” said Williams. “As a result, we have seen a 27% decrease in underage drinking since last year. We are most proud of the impact our summits have had on the students and the decisions that they are making. We focused on providing youth prevention education on the risks of underage drinking, providing support by educating school staff, and providing support and resources for parents.”
“Project ALERT has formed a relationship with the school staff and the students by gaining their trust and following through with our promise to provide support,” said Williams. “Project ALERT has a ‘no judgment’ stance. The youth are able to speak freely at our meetings without fear of getting in trouble. Some youth share that they have a problem with alcohol or marijuana, and we provide information about the resources that are available to them.”