On Saturday, January 22, the Vida Del Norte coalition held their annual retreat at their office in Questa—a time for coalition and community members to get to know one another, review goals, and create strategic planning. We also discussed data findings from recent, relevant local surveys.
Coalition Coordinator Maria Gonzalez reviewed the two main goals of the coalition. These goals are determined by the Drug-Free Communities Support Program grant:
- Goal 1: Establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, private nonprofit agencies, and federal, state, local, and tribal governments to support the efforts of community coalitions to prevent and reduce substance abuse among youth.
- Goal 2: Reduce substance abuse among youth and, over time, among adults by addressing the factors in a community that increase the risk of substance abuse, and by promoting the factors that minimize the risk of substance abuse.
- Later in her presentation, Maria discussed the importance of capacity building within the coalition. She explained that “targeted recruiting” involves several key steps:
- Identify the work to be done
- Determine the skills, knowledge, and resources needed
- Identify which individuals and/or organizations can be recruited
- Recruit new (and existing) members to do the work
- This involvement from the community is the coalition’s most valuable resource.
During the lunch break, participants filled out an evaluation to gauge where the coalition is strong and what needs improvement.
Find out more about all the various ways that you can get involved with Vida Del Norte! Visit www.vidadelnorte.com/get-involved. Having committed and engaged members, volunteers, and community partners is crucial to the coalition’s success.
Janie Corinne, the coalition evaluator, presented findings of a recent annual survey assessing alcohol use in Taos County. 74% of adults age 18-25 report drinking alcohol and 33% of these individuals report binge drinking. This is especially concerning since the brain continues to develop until the age of 25 and alcohol use can impair that development process. See the rest of the survey findings at www.vidadelnorte.com/data.
Brian Salazar gave a presentation on how best to communicate with youth when having conversations about substance misuse prevention. Brian has recently been hired as the QISD counselor. His presentation stressed the importance of talking to youth with respect.
Five youth members were also present at the retreat. They brought up some important points that address how the community can come together to create better opportunities for the youth that might help prevent them and their peers from misusing substances. They talked about how they can feel let down by adults and how, often, when they share their opinions, it seems that no one cares or listens. One young lady even said that she would not want to ever raise kids in Questa because there is a lack of opportunity here. One young man said that he would want to raise a family here because feels that it is a good investment to come back to your community. All of the young people discussed how they would like to see a wellness center or have the school gym open after hours. More group activities outside of school like camping, fishing, and arts and crafts were also decided. The support and consistency that they are getting in school was an issue: one young woman thought that staff evaluations at the school could be beneficial. All of this input from the youth and the presentation by Brian Salazar about effective communication helped the adult members of the coalition to better understand how important it is to be respectful and listen to the concerns of young people when they want to be heard, especially if we hope for them to listen and understand the dangers of substance misuse.