Август 22, 2019

Coalitions in Action— Yu-Can Coalition Proves That Youth Can Do Anything


“The Yu-Can Coalition was formed in 2000 with the intent to promote healthy lifestyle choices free from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs for the city of Yukon, Oklahoma,” said coalition coordinator Shelby Snowden. “As a leading school district in our community and the fastest growing county in Oklahoma, we have experienced tremendous student growth over the last few years with a student population over 8,800. The Yu-Can Coalition’s primary focus is on the students in the district and their families. Our coalition is student-led with about 100 kids in our coalition ranging from 6th grade to 12th grade. We have four students on our high school board and two on our middle school board along with two advisors. The Coalition partners with the Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force, working together to promote a healthy, safe, knowledgeable community.”  

“Many coalitions are faced with the challenges of educating students and parents about living a healthy life free from alcohol, tobacco and other drugs,” said Snowden. “Our coalition faces specific challenges with underage drinking, marijuana, prescription medications and vaping. In collaboration with our Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force, we received a grant to target underage drinking prevention in our community and work with the local Yukon Police Department and other community partners like the local hospital, Canadian County Health Department, and the Red Rock RPC to target social host problems and alcohol sales to underage students.” 

“Another big change for us this past year has been new laws surrounding medical marijuana,” said Snowden. “As many new dispensaries have been popping up all over our community, the perception of using marijuana has shifted to being less risky. Our education efforts will include marijuana education for parents, faculty and students.”  

“Vaping has also become one of the biggest trends in our schools and the lack of knowledge about what vaping does and its effects is one of the specific targets of the Yu-Can Coalition in the next year,” said Snowden. “The Yu-Can Coalition Coordinator has started providing specific education targeting middle school students and will be working on creating educational material for parents/guardians. This information will be sent out through all our social media avenues and parent-teacher conferences and at our annual county-wide Town Hall.” 

“One program that I believe we’re most proud of is ‘Youth Speak Out,’” said Snowden. “Each school year, our students are asked to speak to community leaders about issues they would like to see changed. Each student presents a three-minute speech about the change with an emphasis on solutions. This year some of the topics included suicide prevention, sex education, crowded buses, discrimination, bullying and lack of cultural education. Community leaders (i.e. state representatives, district attorney, police and fire departments, school administration, school personnel, business owners, etc.) are invited to attend and are encouraged to get involved, ask questions and help work on solutions. After the presentations, students and community leaders meet one-on-one to discuss the issues and possible solutions in more detail as well as exchange contact information. This is an exciting collaboration and a way that students and community leaders can come together to create positive changes.”

“The Yu-Can Coalition is fortunate to have the support of the Yukon Public School system as well as our partners and community leaders that support our mission and goals,” said Snowden. “The Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force and our school administration do this by allowing Yu-Can to promote special events (Back to School Bash, Tar Wars, Town Hall, and Youth Speak Out) in the community and on school property. We are often supported by local businesses who give donations for our lunch meetings or our local events.” 

“Our student membership has been up and down over the years, but because we have been consistent and persistent, we continue to grow,” said Snowden. “Even within our constantly changing environment, we have been making progress in leaps and bounds regarding our youth membership recruitment. We believe that recruiting students at a younger age will help them find a group to belong to that has a positive influence on their future as they learn leadership skills, teamwork, and the consequences of using alcohol or drugs. As a result, we added 40 kids to our coalition, which meant our voices were louder and more people were starting to hear what we had to say which added more students to our group. This is how change is created and sustained.” 

“Being persistent and consistent in messaging, increasing recruitment efforts and gaining the support of community leadership can help your coalition thrive,” said Snowden. “By reaching out and letting people know what you are trying to accomplish with clear messages and by providing fun and educational programs and events, you will be able to see how your coalition can truly make a big difference. Even though results may not be seen right away, planting a seed or motivating one student at a time to make the better choice may change the course of their entire life. Our students are faced with extreme stress and peer pressure, so showing them there is a safe, positive, supportive place, club, or coalition they can belong to that cares about their future, is a win-win for everyone. Our coalition is passionate about changing our community. This group is a true blessing to our schools as another place for students to be themselves and surround themselves with others that think and act as they do.”

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