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Youth Community Coalition is committed to the future

Youth Community Coalition is committed to the future

What’s good for youth is good for everyone, and the Youth Community Coalition (YC2) stands by that motto to help nurture healthy decision making among Columbia’s youth. The coalition is a network of more than 70 organizations that collaborate to promote healthy behaviors and decrease substance abuse.

“We believe that if you give youth the basic building blocks of a healthy development, they respond in amazing ways,” says Ryan Worley, coordinator of the Youth Community Coalition. “As an organization, we strive to keep five simple promises to the youth in our community: a healthy start, safe places, caring adults, opportunities to serve and effective education.”

Linda Frost, treasurer of the Youth Community Coalition Board, has been particularly passionate about the organization and has continued her involvement for more than 10 years. “When kids get involved with not only substance abuse but other risky decision making, it can affect them for the rest of their lives,” she says.

Tiffany Bowman, who currently serves as chair of the board, says the opportunity to be on the board is a truly humbling experience.

The board serves as an accessory to the full-time staff to complement and support leadership decisions and strategic planning for YC2. New to the board this year is Connie Brooks, a licensed psychiatrist who was brought on to share perspectives on mental health. “The coalition is really thoughtful about finding out what Columbia needs at the community level,” she says. “Hopefully, it’s more effective than meeting with kids individually.”

Funding effective programs

YC2 seeks local, state and federal resources to fund their projects and programs. “The coalition funds its programs well and really maximizes the dollars they spend,” says Elizabeth Pafford, secretary on the board.

This year, the board and staff have been particularly proud of the success of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. “We work with Boys and Girls Club, Fun City Youth Academy and Moving Ahead to focus on the quality of after-school programs,” Worley says. “The goal is to ensure that students have access to the academic, social and emotional support they need to succeed, and this project proves after-school programs have a big impact on a child’s learning.”

Other successes include partnering with the Columbia Police Department for a prescription drug take-back program. “We have collected over 2,500 pounds of medication, which equals to about 1 million pills,” Worley says. The coalition has also been working with local liquor establishments to emphasize the importance of carding customers to decrease underage drinking.

“I have recently been very excited about our Teen Outreach Program and efforts to reduce substance abuse,” Worley says. “We work with the Boone County Health Department and Columbia Housing Authority to implement the Teen Outreach Program at three Columbia schools: Hickman, Rock Bridge and Jefferson Middle School. We hope to have an additional site this fall. We have seen great outcomes with this program in improving students’ academic performance and decreasing things such as course failure and suspensions.”

Positive partnerships

In addition to working with children and teens, YC2 has partnered with the MU Wellness Resource Center. “What’s special about this organization is it really emphasizes people, agencies, businesses and different groups working together for the good of not only teenagers but younger kids and now, young adults,” Frost says. She believes the extension of their programming makes perfect sense and sees it as a positive change for everyone. “Both high-schoolers and college students many times go to the same parties, the same bars and get their alcohol from the same places. It just makes sense.”

Brooks, the assistant director at the MU Assessment and Consultation Clinic, hopes her access to recent research can provide direction when working with such a wide group of young people. Next year, the Youth Community Coalition wants to further expand its reach by connecting with youth and families all throughout Boone County.

It’s obvious the success of the Youth Community Coalition is directly connected to the people involved in the organization. From each level of participation, whether it is the staff, the board, new members or old members, each person continually tips his or her hat to the people involved. “The best thing about this coalition compared to others is it is very resource rich,” Pafford says. “We have a lot of active, dedicated members are focused on making Columbia a safe, positive place for youth.”

“My favorite part about YC2 is the people,” Worley says. “We get to work alongside some of the most amazing agencies and individuals. Getting to work together on common goals truly is an inspiration and reminds you that you are not alone in the effort to serve Columbia’s young people.”Screen Shot 2013-12-04 at 9.57.20 AM

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