Teen leadership conference yields plans for safer communities

8/12/2013, 11:25 a.m.

Nearly 100 Virginia schools and communities have the potential to be safer and healthier in the coming school year thanks to a multitude of Strategies to Act Now (STAN) plans created by Virginia high school students at this year’s Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP) leadership conference.

Almost 500 teenagers and more than 100 adults recently converged on Longwood University campus for the 29th annual YADAPP summer leadership conference. Five days later they emerged with new friends, new leadership skills and a new plan to make their schools and communities a safer place. Sponsored by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, YADAPP is a peer-led youth leadership program which empowers teens to become involved in keeping their schools and communities alcohol and drug free.

This year, 93 teams from across the state identified a problem in their communities and created a 2013-2014 school-year STAN plan to help address it. Teams of four created their plans by setting goals and brainstorming strengths and weaknesses. Plans also include a timeline, budget and evaluation component. Participants spent some time in classrooms but also enjoyed team building exercises, targeted breakout sessions, eight motivational speakers and even a talent show throughout the course of the week.

“Communities should be really proud to have one of their schools represented at YADAPP. These are students and adult sponsors who are willing to take a stand and create positive change,” said ABC’s Education and Prevention Manager Katie Weaks. “We had some great plans come out of the conference this year and I can’t wait to see them implemented.”

As an additional incentive, ABC awarded 21 mini-grants at the conference to help fund the best STAN plans. This year’s winners include schools from Augusta, Cumberland, Fairfax, Hanover, New Kent, Page, Pittsylvania, Prince William, Roanoke, Spotsylvania, and York Counties as well as Colonial Heights, Newport News, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach.