Voinovich School develops new partnership with Foundation for Appalachian Ohio on youth-led substance abuse prevention

Marilyn Icsman
April 2, 2019

Nearly a dozen Ohio organizations will develop or strengthen youth-led substance abuse prevention programs through a new partnership between Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio.

The foundation awarded grants to 10 organizations across the region; the Voinovich School will provide critical training and technical assistance to these grantees. Previously, the Voinovich School’s team worked with 43 groups in Ohio to develop youth-led programming, but only five of those groups were in Appalachia.

“Youth-led programming aims to empower young people to lead prevention efforts in their communities,” Jessica Collura, a research associate with the Voinovich School programmatic partnership for substance abuse prevention and promotion, said.

“They’re designed to create community change around issues related to substance use, and its young people actually leading that work,” Collura said. “They’re a really powerful model because they create change at the community level, so young people who don’t even participate in youth-led programs will benefit from the strategies that these young people end up implementing in their communities.”

The grant recipients will each receive $5,000 over two years, in addition to the support and training of the Voinovich School. The school will provide a training academy, working with two adults from each organization who facilitate the youth-led programs. In addition to Collura, research associate Aimee Collins, associate professor Dr. Holly Raffle, and two undergraduate research scholars help provide training and technical assistance to the participants.

“It’s a two-year training opportunity, where the first year is designed for them to really plan for what their youth-led program will look like,” Collura said. “The second year, the training focuses on supporting them as they implement their program.”

The Voinovich School will offer four training sessions throughout each year, supplemented with technical assistance between those trainings. Although most of the grantee organizations are implementing a youth-led prevention model for the first time, others are strengthening existing programs. Trainings are adapted to the participants’ needs; feedback from technical support sessions helps the team further tailor the trainings.

“The trainings are set up in a learning community format, which means they’re intentionally designed to do a lot of exchange and cross-knowledge sharing among the participants,” Collura said. “That’s part of what makes this cohort unique, because the common identity that bonds them is facilitating these programs in Appalachia.”

Ohio University president M. Duane Nellis shared his enthusiasm for the state-wide program.

“We are excited for this opportunity to help more communities develop youth-led prevention efforts to combat substance use,” Nellis said.  “Our youth-led prevention work has been powerful and we have hoped to do more of it here in our Appalachian Ohio region. This partnership with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio is an exciting collaboration in service of the region.” 

President of the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, Cara Dingus Brook, also highlighted the value of youth-led programming.

“FAO has always believed in the children of Appalachia,” she said. “As we partner with our communities to tackle some of our greatest challenges, we know that our youngest citizens have an incredible ability to lead. We have great hopes for the ways these young people can make a difference for their peers and their communities, in particular around issues of substance use.” 

Grants were awarded to the following organizations:

  • Ashtabula County MHRS Board/Prevention Coalition in Ashtabula County for the Ashtabula County Youth Coalition Project 
  • Brown County Educational Service Center in Brown County for the Teens on Target for the Future Program 
  • Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery (Gallia CPR) in Gallia County for Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery Teen Coalition 
  • Logan-Hocking School District in Hocking County to support the Youth-Led Initiative 
  • Personal and Family Counseling Services in Carroll County to support Youth-Led Prevention 
  • OSU Extension in Vinton County to support Vinton County Youth Engaging in Action 
  • Vincentian Ohio Action Network in Muskingum County to support the Zanesville Think Tank on Poverty Youth Council 
  • Belmont County Student Services in Belmont County to support Youth Leading the Way 
  • Perry Behavioral Health Choices, in partnership with the Perry County OSU Extension, to support Youth-Led Prevention in Perry County 
  • Woodsfield Kiwanis Club, in partnership with the Switzerland of Ohio Local School District, in Monroe County, to support Project: Hope