What’s better than working with the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Services to create positive change throughout the county? Going beyond our home county and working with three other communities throughout the state for an even broader range of community level change. That’s what happened with three agencies in Georgia dedicated to creating and sustaining change around substance use and abuse in their communities. These programs are associated with the Drug Free Communities Mentoring Grant through the Gwinnett Coalition, and we have been fortunate to work with them for the last several years.
Our work began in 2012 with Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families. This organization wanted to increase and strengthen community collaboration among nonprofits, businesses, schools and the government to prevent and reduce youth substance abuse. In order to help them achieve this goal, we trained them on Community Level Change Strategies and the Strategic Prevention Framework. Through these training, Rockdale received information and tools to assess, build capacity, plan, implement and evaluate programs that specifically addressed their goal. Even though it’s been several years since we worked directly with them, the Rockdale Coalition continues to use this information to implement effective programs.
We continued spreading the good news of community change with Cherokee FOCUS, a collaborative that exists to improve the lives of children and families in Cherokee County. When we began work with this agency in 2014, their main goal was to bring together various groups in the community to work together to create change. Through the DFC grant, we were able to work with them to bring in community stakeholders and discuss how they can truly work as a team to create positive change in the community around substance abuse prevention. Now, this group continues to come together, discuss collaboration and plan programs that seek to reduce substance use and abuse across Cherokee County.
In 2015, we began work with yet another dynamic agency, Family Alliance of Paulding. This agency is committed to promoting activities that enrich the lives and address the needs of their community and provide opportunities for community leadership, advocacy, education, vital social services and individual development. We worked directly with community leaders and addressed how to build capacity in their own neighborhoods. We will continue work with this agency throughout the year to make sure they have everything they need in order to implement effective prevention programs.
All three agencies also had the opportunity to engage youth from their programs by attending Georgia Teen Institute. While in school and at home, youth rarely have the chance to share their opinions and feedback about things going on around them. When organizations ask youth to have a voice, they learn that what youth say and do can truly make a difference! Youth Voice is imperative, especially when it comes to youth-serving organizations.
At Georgia Teen Institute, these youth were given the opportunity to discuss things they see as issues in their community. What are the issues they face as teenagers? Why do these issues exist? By asking these questions and allowing youth to provide authentic answers (and actually listening to what they say!), youth are then more likely to stay engaged in their communities. Rockdale, Cherokee and Paulding County youth took what they learned about leadership and the Strategic Prevention Framework while at Georgia Teen Institute, and then created an action plan to take back into their communities to create positive community change.
It takes everyone working together to create lasting, sustainable change. Thanks to our partnership with the Gwinnett Coalition for Health and Human Service, Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families, Cherokee FOCUS and the Family Alliance of Paulding, we are able to be a part of meaningful change happening across Georgia!