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.
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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