In May, students and staff from the Southwest Washington region attended the 2023 Washington State Spring Youth Forum. Forty teams from across the state were awarded scholarships to attend and present at the conference, which took place May 9 -10 in Grand Mound, Washington.
The goal of the Spring Youth Forum is to recognize and reward youth prevention teams that have implemented a successful prevention project within their communities. The forum is funded by the Washington State Health Care Authority and serves as the follow-up conference to the Washington State Prevention Summit, which takes place each fall. The Spring Youth Forum provides youth prevention teams the opportunity to learn from others while showcasing their own education and planning skills. Youth teams share successes and lessons learned from projects started during or after Prevention Summits or other youth trainings. The Prevention Summit and Spring Youth Forum work in tandem to create momentum and encourage, reward, and support youth-led prevention work in communities throughout Washington.
This year’s first place winners were from Battle Gound’s Chief Umtuch Dream Team, with support from advisor Jennifer Kirby from Prevent Together: Battle Ground Prevent Alliance. Chief Umtuch Dream Team presented “Igniting Student Sparks”, a project about creating connections for young people through the things they are passionate about.
“Upon returning to school full time after the pandemic, students were feeling really disconnected so the team wanted to do something that would help them, and their peers, feel less alone and to improve mental health overall,” shared team advisor, Jennifer Kirby.
Research from the Search Institute shows that when young people actively pursue their passion projects (sparks) and have caring adults in their lives, they are less likely to get involved in risky behaviors such as using substances.
According to the Healthy Youth Survey, kids living in the Battle Ground area have had fewer opportunities for prosocial involvement than other youth from around the state. Prosocial behaviors promote social acceptance and friendship, something that benefits other people, or society as a whole. This void is the reason the project focused on finding and creating opportunities for prosocial involvement and connection through things youth are passionate about. The Dream Team surveyed students to learn about their interests, or sparks, connect opportunities for engagement in schools, create more clubs and organizations, identify barriers, and collaborate with the community to make participation possible for all students.
As the winners, the Dream Team was awarded a paid trip to Washington, D.C. to participate in the CADCA Leadership Academy. This program focuses on equipping youth with the tools necessary to help coalitions achieve community-level change.
From the ESD 112 region, the following nine teams attended:
- AWWA (Accepting Who We Are) – Wahkiakum High School, Wahkiakum School District
- Chief Umtuch Dream Team – Chief Umtuch Middle School, Battle Ground Public Schools
- Breaking Barriers Club – Goldendale High School, Goldendale School District
- R.A. Long Prevention Club – R.A. Long High School, Longview Public Schools
- TADAA! (Teens Advocating for Drug and Alcohol Awareness) – Klickitat School District and Lyle School District, WA
- Teens For Tomorrow – Students from various Clark County schools
- The Great Prevention – Fort Vancouver High School, Vancouver Public Schools
- White Salmon Valley Sources of Strength – White Salmon High School, White Salmon School District
- Washougal High School Ambassadors – Washougal High School, Washougal School District
A special thank you to the following team advisors: Nikita Mendez, Jennifer Kirby, Angela Kruger, Athena Priddy, Sheila Crapper, Tabby Stokes, Alaina Green, Xander Cook, and Caitlin Cray.
Thank you also to the following chaperones: Michelle Ward, Liz Lester, Joy Lyons, Sunday Sutton, and Kari Koller.
To learn more about the Spring Youth Forum and its impact on youth-led prevention work, please visit www.springyouthforum.org.