A newly formed youth leadership council based at Kamiah is passionate about drug prevention.
The Upriver Youth Leadership Council’s mission is to empower youth and adults to build a healthier community through prevention leadership.
“UYLC recognizes that youth engagement is key to making change,” said Sharlene Johnson, council president. “We’re really excited and positive about moving forward.”
Johnson was instrumental in starting up and directing the former Kamiah Community Partners Coalition before taking a job for the Idaho Office of Drug Policy at Boise in 2013.
“Youth has always been our focus,” she said. “We tended to use them for our focus instead of engaging them in the process of what we are doing. Youth will have more of a leadership role,” she explained. There will be a youth advisory board that will include a representative from each of the grades 6-12.
“Youth participation has always ebbed and flowed and through one on one conversations, focus groups, gaps analysis and the Kaizen survey it is determined that this trend is because youth have not been truly engaged in the process. Youth engagement will be a key component in the building and strengthening collaboration piece of the 12-month action plan.
“In accordance with the new youth-led, adult-guided mantra, there will be the development of a Youth Advisory Board (YAB). The YAB will attend the CADCA National Youth Leadership Institute to learn the SPF process and to learn valuable leadership skills and begin planning various prevention initiatives they will put into action in the community.
“UYLC will make every attempt to engage the youth in the process instead of using the youth for the process by guiding them to develop and practice leadership skills such as event planning, public speaking, networking, organization and time management during monthly meetings and at community events. These skills translate to supporting UYLC’s work and community events, but also provide teens with skills and knowledge to use in their daily lives.
“YAB members will be encouraged to share their thoughts, input and opinions about the issues they face to influence our organization’s programming and projects. By doing so, they are able to see the impact of their work. Such peer-to-peer drug prevention work creates a strong community impact.”
The goals of the incorporated non-profit organization will be to:
1) Foster leadership and resilience skills in our community youth,
2) Prevent the initiation of youth substance use,
3) Build a collaborative, sustainable community-wide prevention infrastructure.
“We’re tackling youth alcohol use and youth marijuana use,” said Johnson. “The hope is to reduce access, increase the perception of harm, and a lot of social activities for our kids.”
When asked about the trends of drug abuse she felt that alcohol use has stabilized. “Marijuana use is going up as the perception of harm is going down. All of our neighboring states have legalized it in some form. We’re the last holdout state. I think that is causing the increase because they are not seeing it as a harmful substance.
In an effort to focus the attention of young people in a positive direction, UYLC plans to offer them lots of prosocial activities and pro-family engagement offerings.
Once the council is fully funded, Johnson said it hopes to offer activities every weekend for kids as well as periodic family engagement activities like field trips.
“We are an action oriented, partnership engaged group. We love doing things for our community and we love being positive and doing things for our kids,” said Johnson. “It’s our passion. We are passionate about what we do.”
The council’s focus includes grades 6-12 where higher issues are, but activities will also be inclusive of younger children and parental involvement.
“I think the parents need to be engaged in what their kids do. They are welcome to join our council.”
A couple upcoming activities include a family engagement activity on March 23 in partnership with the school, KAP and Yes programs.
On April 5 a community drug education town hall meeting will be held in partnership with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office, Cottonwood Police, KMO, and Kamiah schools. The Lewis County Sheriff’s Office and Lewis County Juvenile Probation are also partners in the UYLC coalition.
Both activities are funded through partnerships. The council will be holding fundraisers as well as seeking grants to develop and fund the organization.
Johnson is writing a Drug Free Communities Grant that would award $125,000 a year for five years with the potential to reapply for another five years. The fiscal agent for the DFC grant will be The Life Center. The group will find out if it has been awarded the funds in August.
The public is welcome to attend the UYLC monthly meeting March 16 at 6 p.m. at the KAP modular located between the elementary and middle schools.
Board of Directors include Vice President Susan Broncheau, Secretary Tina Brotnov, Treasurer Alana Curtis, and members at large Kelly Lineberry and Sara Moffett.