Natalie Kulick June 23, 2022

Youth Spotlight: Andrea Marquez

CADCA Youth Trainer, Andrea Marquez, graduated this May from Occidental College with a major in Latin American studies and a double minor in history and education. This fall, she will pursue a master’s degree in Educational Studies from the University of Michigan. In this blog post, she reflects on her journey as a youth trainer and prevention advocate, and how her experiences have led to her passion for educational equity and social transformation.

Andrea first became involved in prevention work after joining the Texans for Safe and Drug-Free Youth (TxSDY) coalition in high school. Through the TxSDY, Andrea attended CADCA’s Mid-Year Training Institute. “Mid-Year was how I met a lot of the people that I work closely with now. I remember being really impressed with the trainers and the work that they were doing, and immediately knew that it was something I wanted to pursue.”

Later that year, Andrea joined the team with the next cohort of youth trainers. “I’ve really treasured the mentorship the adult trainers have provided. There’s such a strong sense of community between all of us, and it’s been really cool to grow up alongside the other trainers in my cohort.”

As a trainer, Andrea developed leadership and public speaking skills, advocated for prevention and inspired youth to create change in their communities. “Every training is so different. When you train, you have to learn about the demographics and the age groups you’re working with, and about the history of their communities. In a recent training in Puerto Rico, we spoke a lot about resiliency, because the communities there have experienced several natural disasters and other hardships recently, so resiliency is especially relevant to their history.”

“One of the skills that I’ve really taken away from my time as a youth trainer is knowing how to go into communities with the humility of knowing that I will be learning as much from the people I train as they will learn from me. As we work together, we create this dynamic where we combine the knowledge from each of our experiences to see how we can form a plan that’s truly actionable and effective.”

During Andrea’s time at Occidental College, she began interning at Koreatown Youth and Community Center (KYCC), a local coalition based in Los Angeles. In the interim between her undergraduate and graduate school, she is working full-time for KYCC on substance use and misuse prevention. “It’s been a very different experience from when I was a volunteer at my coalition in Texas. My work now is a lot more focused on our Parent Programs, so it even differs from my youth-focused work with CADCA since I primarily work with adults.”

“I feel like I’m constantly learning something new about myself and my community at this coalition from the conversations I have with our community members. Our programs mostly support recently immigrated Latinx women and mothers, and we spend a lot of time listening about their experiences with substance use in their home countries and how that affected their migration to the US, as well as what their relationship to substances look like now. As my time with this coalition draws to a close, I’m realizing how much I’ve learned over these past few years with KYCC.”

“Everything I’ve learned during my time with CADCA has come full circle. We’ve always talked about how everyone has their own unique experiences and relationships with substance use. Whether you have a family member that struggles with addiction, or you struggle with it yourself, our relationships with substances are rooted in our familial histories, our generations, the way our bodies function and our social relationships. At CADCA, we focus on community level change, but working at the KYCC has also been an eye-opening experience, and I’ve learned how you can also work with specific individuals that need personalized assistance and guidance.”

“After I complete my master’s program, I see myself doing something more long term in the field of education, specifically relating to policy. I don’t know exactly what that career path will look like, but I’m letting myself be guided by my interests instead of feeling the need to have everything planned out. My advice to those entering college now is to allow yourself to sit in that discomfort and know that things will work out the way that they need to work out, and eventually your passion will lead you to your purpose.”

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