Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) recently highlighted Harvey County's Youth As Resources (YAR) program on its website. CADCA's doing so has brought some positive attention to the program.
Prevention coordinator for Mirror, Inc. Des Martens, who piloted the original project in 2006, said the Mirror's YAR program, which is gaining a lot of local momentum, is based upon the idea that youth are a valuable community resource – one that can be directly utilized.
Martens said 2006 data showed YAR influenced positive changes in numbers for underage drinking at that time.
Martens believes the more recent attention from CADCA is due to when a group of YAR youth traveled to the CADCA conference in Las Vegas last summer.
Those young people, who were from Sedgwick, were chosen to be part of a pilot project on over-the-counter medicine safety and eventually presented to fifth graders in Sedgwick.
"I had always hoped to be able to come back and launch (the program) county-wide and that's what we started this year..." Martens said. "We're doing really well in promoting it. It takes time anytime you build a new concept among young people..."
The YAR program is currently available in Halstead, Newton, Hesston, Burrton, Peabody and Sedgwick.
There are adult sponsors in every YAR location and a shared county-wide board with representatives from every city's team.
According to information on the official program pamphlet, YAR allows teams of high school youth to design and carry out service projects contributing to community improvement, as well as to implement campaigns that address substance abuse in their schools.
Students participating in the program are also provided with the opportunity to attend leadership training.
Service learning projects provide youth with opportunities to bond with the community – a protective factor that, according to the research-based Social Development Strategy of the Center for Communities that Care, buffers them from risky behaviors and promotes positive youth development.
Martens said YAR is looking to have more of a presence in Newton and that Newton High School Resource Officer Gary Littlejohn has already expressed an interest in working with the group.
During the 2017/2018 school year, Martens said YAR intends to focus on the issues of underage drinking and marijuana use.
This year, Youth As Resources members:
• Delivered homemade cookies to local law enforcement, fire and EMS departments to commemorate 9/11.
• Trained fifth grade students in over-the-counter medicine safety (a national pilot project of CADCA).
• Attended Mirror’s Youth Leadership Summit.
• Hosted family fun nights, educating parents and youth on making healthy choices.
• Planned alternative activity nights for their local high schools.
• Attended Kansas Youth Empowerment conference at the state capitol.
• Planted flowers to beautify Main Street.
• Created gingerbread cut-outs to honor/represent the children served by local child advocacy center Heart to Heart.
• Presented to middle school students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol use.
• Partnered with YMCA on a national Healthy Kids Day initiative.
• Attended Kansas Youth Leadership Summit and created a plan to make Harvey County a safer, healthier place to live.
For more information about YAR, contact Mirror, Inc. Prevention Specialist Rachael Miner at firstname.lastname@example.org or Martens at email@example.com or 316-283-6743.