From Daniel J. Marthey
Six youth members of the SRSLY Coalition in Chelsea recently appeared on Capitol Hill to discuss substance use. Sean McGill, 14yrs, Sophie Sjogren, 14yrs, Ace Eder, 15yrs, Shannon Conley, 13yrs, Ananth Ghosh, 17yrs, and April Montoye, 12yrs, traveled to Washington, D.C. to join more than 2,500 substance abuse prevention specialists and advocates from throughout the country for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s (CADCA) 26th Annual National Leadership Forum (NLF).
CADCA’s NLF, (February 1- 4), covered a wide range of topics including how to prevent prescription drug abuse, the abuse of synthetic drugs and marijuana, how to create tobacco-free environments and develop policies to reduce underage drinking.
The youth members participated in training to become stronger community leaders and advocates for a healthier Chelsea community through the National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI) program.
“I learned that one ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I also learned that kids have a voice that can change anything,” said first time attendee, Shannon Conley as she noted her biggest takeaways from the training.
On Capitol Hill Day, attendees heard from several federal leaders including Michael Botticelli, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The group proudly represented Chelsea as they joined thousands of other attendees in visiting Capitol Hill to meet with their Members of Congress, including Representative Tim Walberg, Senator Gary Peters, and the Health Legislative Assistant from the office of Senator Debbie Stabenow.
During their meetings they advocated for continued support of substance use prevention legislation and educated the elected officials about substance use, especially among teens, in Chelsea.
“The NYLI training really taught me a lot of leadership skills and made me want to make a difference in my community. Because of Capitol Hill Day I know that I can use my voice to make a difference,” shares youth member April Montoye.
Due to the outstanding achievements and hard work of the Chelsea youth attendees at NLF the greater Chelsea Community received continuous acknowledgement at the conference. During the Capital Hill Day Plenary on February 3, Sophie Sjogren addressed the thousands in attendance as she discussed the important role young people play as change agents and the power of the youth voice. “I was given a voice to represent my community and share my passion and enthusiasm concerning youth’s impact,” she said. In addition to Sophie’s well-received address, Youth Steering Committee President, Ananth Ghosh, received the Outstanding Youth Leader Award. CADCA Chairman, General Arthur T. Dean presented Ananth with this distinguished award to acknowledge his work with the SRSLY Coalition and now as a young CADCA youth trainer.
Looking back on the week’s events Sean McGill explains, “It is an amazing feeling knowing that I am really making a difference in my community. I am so happy to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.”
Looking ahead, SRSLY plans to meet with local civic groups to give the Youth Steering Committee an outlet with which to share their recent experience.