By Chris Hendrickson, Monitor
The Sky Valley Community Coalition continues to gain momentum as members of the Youth Coalition recently attended a statewide drug and alcohol prevention conference held in Yakima.
The coalition received grant money from Snohomish County to participate in the Washington State Prevention Summit, which took place on Oct. 21 and 22. Several coalition representatives chaperoned as members of the youth coalition traveled east of the mountains to attend the summit.
The two-day event included workshops and presentations for both the adults and the attending students. The grant funding was facilitated by Prevention Specialist Joe Neigel, and the grant covered lodging and meals, plus the summit’s registration fees.
Sultan School District’s drug and alcohol counselor Grace Cho attended the summit as a chaperone.
“It was just a good experience to see what other coalitions are doing,” said Cho. “We’re on the right path.”
Cho has offices at both Sultan High School and Sultan Middle School and is available to consult with students and offer guidance regarding substance abuse. She can provide drug and alcohol assessments if needed, and can help facilitate inpatient or outpatient treatment or other counseling services.
“There were a lot of good ideas and a lot of stories that we got to hear so it was really just kind of inspiring,” said Cho.
Sultan High School student Dakota Turner became involved in the youth coalition during his junior year. He has been extremely active in helping grow the “Want More” campaign, which is what the youth coalition members have adopted as their slogan. Turner was one of the coalition members who attended the summit and felt that he really got a lot of value from it.
“We learned how to go about introducing the coalition,” said Turner. “I enjoyed it.”
Turner explained that, in addition to team building exercises, they learned how to advertise and grow as a coalition, how to spot troubled students who may be having issues with substances, while also touching on suicide prevention and anti-bullying.
Turner said that he has remained in contact with some of the other youth coalition members from around the state with whom he became acquainted at the summit.
The summit included youth presentations on marijuana, media awareness, communication, leadership, how to stay on track after high school, promoting change within communities, and much more.
Adult workshops included social media, how to enforce underage drinking laws in rural communities, keys to successful collaboration, using data to aid in decision making, how to win more grants, tips on strengthening communities, and many others.
The coalition has been focused on performing outreach at Sultan High School in an effort to promote name recognition of the Want More slogan. Coalition members have spent time on campus during lunch hour, encouraging students to think about the things in life of which they want more, giving them the opportunity to write down those thoughts on slips of paper that feature the Want More logo.
The students were then photographed with their Want More signs. The photos will eventually be compiled into a short video and presented at the school during an assembly in January.
Over 150 high school students participated in the recent Want More campaigns.
Calei Vaughn is a coalition member and a case manager at the Sky Valley Volunteers of America. She has been an integral part of spreading the Want More campaign, participating in both of the lunch-hour sessions at the high school as well as attending the summit in Yakima.
“I’ve always been reluctant to work with youth,” said Vaughn. “My perception of that has totally changed with seeing how hopeful these guys are and how energetic they are.”
For more information on becoming involved in the Sky Valley Community Coalition, please contact Sultan Mayor and Coalition Chair Carolyn Eslick, or Coalition Co-Chair Sarah Davenport-Smith at (360) 793-2231. The coalition is actively seeking regular and youth members, as well as advisory board members.
The mission of the Sky Valley Community Coalition is to reduce the negative effects of drugs and alcohol, especially among the youth. The coalition Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sky-Valley-Community-Coalition/147329042112724.