Vol­un­teer Spot­light: Dylan

Pro­gram Expan­sions and Incred­i­ble Volunteers

KYC is excit­ed to announce that our Pos­i­tive Youth Devel­op­ment depart­ment is expand­ing its focus to pro­vide com­mu­ni­ty pre­ven­tion and recov­ery sup­port ser­vices to Vet­er­ans and Native Amer­i­cans of all ages in addi­tion to focus­ing on youth pro­grams. With its expand­ed objec­tives, this depart­ment will now oper­ate as the Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lab­o­ra­tion and Pub­lic Resource Devel­op­ment (CCPRD) team. As we look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to grow this depart­ment, we would like to high­light some of the great work they do for our com­mu­ni­ties through the expe­ri­ence of one of our young vol­un­teers, Dylan.

Becom­ing Involved

When Dylan was a high school sopho­more, he was look­ing for ways to become more involved and find lead­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties. He became a reporter for his school news­pa­per and attend­ed the Men­tal Health and Safe­ty Resource Fair to cov­er it for the school news. He went on a writ­ing assign­ment and left with an excit­ing new opportunity.

At the fair, Dylan met Sher­rine, KYC’s Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lab­o­ra­tion and Pub­lic Resource Devel­op­ment. She was sta­tioned at a booth pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion about the Com­mu­ni­ties for Pos­i­tive Youth Devel­op­ment (CPYD) Coali­tion, a com­mu­ni­ty coali­tion coor­di­nat­ed by CCPRD staff that pro­motes healthy choic­es for youth and sup­ports sub­stance use pre­ven­tion through edu­ca­tion, pol­i­cy change, and com­mu­ni­ty col­lab­o­ra­tion. Dur­ing their con­ver­sa­tion, Sher­rine talked to Dylan about join­ing the CPYD Coali­tion. She explained that the Coali­tion is a group of peo­ple from many sec­tors of our com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing law enforce­ment offi­cers, teach­ers, school coun­selors, par­ents, busi­ness own­ers, lead­ers of cul­tur­al groups, and young peo­ple. This ded­i­cat­ed group of indi­vid­u­als works to thought­ful­ly design and imple­ment com­mu­ni­ca­tions that pro­mote healthy lifestyle choic­es among youth.

Most pre­ven­tion cam­paigns and com­mu­ni­ty projects are designed and imple­ment­ed by adults. By includ­ing youth as impor­tant and equal mem­bers of the Coali­tion, CPYD can car­ry out strate­gies that are not only eval­u­at­ed by, but created by their tar­get audi­ence. As a young per­son eager to grow, this oppor­tu­ni­ty appealed to Dylan.

After learn­ing about the Coali­tion, Dylan decid­ed to accept Sher­rine’s invi­ta­tion to attend the next meet­ing, where he quick­ly con­nect­ed with CPY­D’s mis­sion. Dylan took the next step and joined the Youth Advi­so­ry Coun­cil (YAC), the youth mem­bers of the CPYD Coali­tion. He served on the YAC for three years, includ­ing a year as YAC Leader. Dylan, along with oth­er mem­bers of local high schools, got to par­tic­i­pate in pre­ven­tion efforts and local pol­i­cy imple­men­ta­tion process­es that are designed to con­tin­ue to low­er the com­mu­ni­ties’ sub­stance use rates among youth.

Dylan reminds us of the pow­er of stay­ing open-mind­ed and say­ing yes to new oppor­tu­ni­ties. He attend­ed the resource fair because he said yes to join­ing his school news­pa­per. He spoke with Sher­rine about the CPYD Coali­tion and YAC and decid­ed that he might be able to make an impact. He said yes to attend­ing his first Coali­tion meet­ing, and enjoyed it so much that he became a YAC leader. He went on to not only work among adults as an equal, but to devel­op pro­fes­sion­al skills and par­tic­i­pate in some pret­ty cool projects along the way.

Mak­ing an Impact

One of Dylan’s favorite projects was orga­niz­ing a baby show­er” to sup­port local par­ent­ing teens. CPYD works to pre­vent preg­nan­cy among teens, but they also know that not all teen preg­nan­cies will be pre­vent­ed. It’s still essen­tial to ensure that par­ent­ing teens and their chil­dren are sup­port­ed in ways that allow them to make healthy lifestyle choic­es. Under­stand­ing all of this, Dylan and the CPYD team col­lect­ed dona­tions of baby items and invit­ed young par­ents to browse and take what they need­ed in a sup­port­ive and friend­ly envi­ron­ment. This also served as an out­reach oppor­tu­ni­ty to edu­cate young par­ents about oth­er resources and sup­ports that are avail­able to them.

Dylan also had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to present at the CAD­CA (Com­mu­ni­ty Anti-Drug Coali­tions of Amer­i­ca) Mid-Year Train­ing Insti­tute about the pow­er of youth lead­er­ship in com­mu­ni­ty-based pre­ven­tion efforts. In front audi­ence mem­bers from oth­er com­mu­ni­ty coali­tions, Dylan pas­sion­ate­ly spoke about the neces­si­ty of the youth voice in the design and strate­gic plan­ning of suc­cess­ful pre­ven­tion cam­paigns. By encour­ag­ing oth­er coali­tion lead­ers to engage youth as equal con­trib­u­tors, he hopes that com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try can also imple­ment suc­cess­ful pre­ven­tion strategies.

The Ben­e­fits of Youth Volunteerism

Now study­ing at Illi­nois State Uni­ver­si­ty, Dylan reflects on all of the skills and oppor­tu­ni­ties that he gained through his time vol­un­teer­ing with CPYD and KYC. He enjoyed many lead­er­ship and pub­lic speak­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties through his expe­ri­ence on the YAC. It gave him a deep­er under­stand­ing of com­mu­ni­ty needs, and the strate­gies we can use to address them in order to make our com­mu­ni­ties health­i­er. As an aspir­ing teacher, these are all skills that direct­ly pre­pare him for his career path, but would also be applic­a­ble to many oth­er pro­fes­sion­al fields. 

While vol­un­teer­ing is a require­ment for grad­u­a­tion in many high schools, Dylan hopes that vol­un­teer­ing among young peo­ple can move from a require­ment to a habit. He notes that vol­un­teer­ing does­n’t have to be a huge time com­mit­ment, but it can sig­nif­i­cant­ly ben­e­fit our com­mu­ni­ties and allows us to devel­op per­son­al skills. He reminds us that if one vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ty isn’t the best fit, there are plen­ty of oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties to test the waters in oth­er vol­un­teer roles. For young peo­ple, vol­un­teer expe­ri­ence can be a major boost on a col­lege appli­ca­tion, and can even help local stu­dents earn two years of col­lege tuition through Harper’s Promise Schol­ar­ship Pro­gram. Final­ly, vol­un­teer­ing can lead to oth­er excit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that allow us to con­tin­ue to grow and devel­op in mean­ing­ful ways.

KYC is end­less­ly grate­ful for the ded­i­ca­tion and work of our vol­un­teers of all ages. If Dylan’s sto­ry has inspired you to become involved, the YAC con­tin­ues to recruit mem­bers year round, and the CCPRD team is always in need of youth vol­un­teers when attend­ing com­mu­ni­ty events. Con­tact YAC Adult Ally, Mar­i­an Lopez, to learn more about how you can grow at KYC. For addi­tion­al vol­un­teer oppor­tu­ni­ties for com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers of all ages, please check out our Vol­un­teer page or con­tact our Vol­un­teer Coor­di­na­tor to learn more about how you can grow at KYC.

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