Coalitions in Action – Wahluke Community Coalition – The Power of the Positive

Coalitions in Action – Wahluke Community Coalition – The Power of the Positive

Last year, CADCA announced its first class of Blue Ribbon Coalitions. This credential, incorporated into the newly designed Got Outcomes! Awards program, recognizes the work of high-performing coalitions that did an exceptional job creating a foundation for their work and using their coalition products. One Blue Ribbon coalition, Wahluke Community Coalition, shared that in the process of data-digging while applying for Got Outcomes! in 2021, they recognized the need for a social norms campaign to close the gap between perception of youth substance use and the rate of use.

“We’re located in an agricultural community right in the middle of Washington State. It’s a beautiful area, but because we are located near a lot of recreational things like camping, fishing, boating and the Gorge Amphitheatre, our alcohol density is rather high for how small our population is. This also poses problems when looking at youth substance use prevention,” said Gigi Callaway, Prevention Program Director for Wahluke School District.

“In the process of applying for Got Outcomes! and reviewing our Covid Student Survey Data, we saw that 93% of our students had not used substances in the past 30 days. To gauge the perception of use, we decided to host a booth at a community event where people could put a dot indicating what percentage of the student population they thought were using marijuana, alcohol and nicotine. We quickly realized that perceptions of use were far higher than the reported use, so we decided to create a social norms campaign with the message, ‘Be Part of the 93%: Most of US are DRUG-FREE.’”

“We designed a simple poster with that message and hung it on each of the doors at the start of the school year. Later that fall, the students were re-surveyed with the Healthy Youth Survey (HYS), and we found that we made significant progress in closing that gap between youth substance use and perception of use.”

“Previously, our eighth graders thought that 26% of their peers used substances (HYS, 2018), and we reduced that to 5% in 2021 (HYS, 2021). Our tenth graders believed 20% of their peers used substances in 2018 (HYS, 2018), and in 2021, that number dropped to 9% (HYS, 2021). We attribute these changes largely to our messaging.”

“This campaign also helped with changing the mindset of our teachers and administrators, which has been really valuable. 75% of our certified staff commute to our schools from outside of the community, which results in some disconnection and misperception of what our community norms truly are. It’s important for them to have an accurate sense of what our youth are doing because ultimately, they are the messengers to our youth.”

“Overall, I think the power of the positive is amazing. I am really proud of this accomplishment and the impact of this campaign, and now we wear the Blue Ribbon Coalition credential with a badge of honor. Most of all, I think that award is an opportunity to have a talking point with the people in our community who might not be aware of what CADCA is or what coalitions do. As we educate our coalition members and the general population of our community about our efforts, this honor is something we can share with them proudly and explain why our work is important. After coming off of some difficult years during the pandemic, this award was great being something we could celebrate.”