Five young people from Parker have received training in how to face the problem of alcohol and drugs, and they’re ready to share what they’ve learned with the community. They attended the National Youth Leadership Forum from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America held Feb. 2-7 at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., which is just outside Washington, D.C.
Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment President Randy Hartless said this could be the last year they will be able to send young people for the CADCA training. The trip was paid for through a five-year Drug Free Communities Grant, and PAACE is in the fifth year of this grant. While the grant can be renewed, Hartless said renewal is not guaranteed.
Four of the people who attended the training spoke with the Pioneer March 13. They included Parker High freshman Jasmine Scott, sophomores Yadhira Larraga and Ivan Hernandez, and junior Stephanie Carrillo. Josylynn Morales was the other Parker High student who went to the training. They were joined by Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment President Randy Hartless, PAACE Board Member Joanna Short, and Jen Hildebrand.
All the students are members of Youth 4 Youth.
The students had their own reasons for wanting to take the training. Hernandez said he wanted to hear different ideas on how to cut down on drug and alcohol abuse.
“I want to make a change in our community,” he said. “I wanted to find out what we can do.”
Carrillo said she wanted to hear different ideas on how they can help their peers, as well as younger kids and adults.
Larraga said many young people start doing drugs and alcohol because they see it at home.
“It’s bad even for adults,” she said. “Kids need to learn it’s not cool just because adults do it.”
Scott said many young people don’t know how to react when they see others doing drugs or using alcohol.
Hartless said the students learned strategies they can use in our community. He said they like to send students who are freshmen or sophomores so they can use their training while they are still in high school.
At the PAACE coalition meeting March 13, Outreach Coordinator Courtney Kom said it was important for students to be able to identify problems in the community and learn what sort of actions they can take to make a difference.
As part of their training, the students went to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators or their staffs. They spoke with aides for Arizona’s two Senators, Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema.
They got a big surprise on the final day of their training when First Lady Melania Trump stopped by to visit with some of the students.
In addition to the training, the students got to see a lot of Washington, D.C. They visited the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the Vietnam Memorial. They also visited the Holocaust Museum, where they met two Holocaust survivors.
The students all said they enjoyed the trip and would go again. They said they are looking forward to completing the second half of their training, which will take place the summer in Texas.
On their website, CADCA said they held the National Youth Forum near Washington, D.C. every year so federal lawmakers will have a chance to hear from young people in the front lines fighting substance abuse. It also gives the young people experience with meeting with elected officials and discussing issues with them.