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The YES Partnership was originally established in 1986, in response to a spike in local teen suicides. Now in its 22nd year, the YES Partnership continues to pursue its mission to support Tuolumne County youth and families and prevent substance abuse, suicide and child abuse. The goals of the program are to: 1) Delay the onset and progression of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use among family, school and community; and 2) Strengthen community collaboration to increase support for local substance abuse. To achieve these goals, the coalition implements the following strategies: 1) Continue and improve youth and community education and advocacy; foster youth leadership and create and support positive adult interaction with youth and 2) increase involvement in each coalition sector (youth, adult and community) and strengthen the coalition’s strategic planning and evaluation. YES provides our community with a vibrant forum for networking and coordination among agencies, community members, parents and youth leaders who care about youth and families.
The YES Partnership operates under the fiscal management of the Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency. It has a 30-member coalition that meets monthly and cooperates on a wide range of projects organized through its on-going committees: Education, Youth Involvement, Media, Membership, Fundraising, Mini Grants, Suicide Prevention, Child Abuse Prevention, Ad Hoc and Data & Research. Any member of the community is also welcome and encouraged to participate on these committees. Two paid staff members – one part-time director and one full-time coordinator – support all coalition and committee activities, and operate from A-TCAA’s Tuolumne County offices.
On-going evaluation tools show our efforts make a difference. Data collected by the Healthy Kids Survey (HKS) show encouraging results over the last four years, particularly among older teens: the survey shows a significant increase in the number of older teens who say they have never used alcohol or drugs, decreases in the number who say they have used alcohol recently and a growing number of teens who consider alcohol and drug use harmful. While many of these responses show positive trends, much work still needs to be done, particularly in teen alcohol use – still the most prevalent substance abuse problem among youth in our rural community. Suicide prevention has also re-emerged as an urgent community concern. A recent spike in suicides at all age levels has forced Tuolumne County to once again focus on this tragic issue – and the YES Partnership has taken a leading role. The community’s Suicide Prevention Task Force, funded in part by the Sonora Area Foundation, was chaired by the YES Programs Director, and the YES Partnership will take a lead in coordinating teen suicide prevention efforts. An ad-hoc committee is now identifying short-term and long-term action plans for YES Partnership members.
The YES Partnership itself serves as a catalyst, clearinghouse and coordinating council for efforts countywide. For 22 years, it has sustained broad participation, with monthly meetings, active committees and involvement and support for a wide array of community and school-based events, campaigns and programs. Its regular annual reviews and assessments over the years have allowed the Partnership to maintain flexibility to identify and respond to new problems and opportunities. Most importantly, the sustained cooperation among YES Partnership members who work together on specific projects has resulted in exceptional networking, knowledge and communication among this broad cross-section of educators, service providers and community leaders. Key stakeholders consistently remain involved because they find the YES Partnership a valuable and efficient way to stay informed about local efforts and current trends in youth and substance abuse issues, build connections in the community, share resources and support each other’s goals and activities. The YES Partnership also provides an efficient, well-established body that can provide comprehensive input from community experts and leaders on youth and substance abuse issues.
Current programs and initiatives that are either led by or supported through the Partnership include a range of public awareness projects and campaigns, youth leadership programs and activities and opportunities for positive adult-youth interactions and parent education and support. These activities reach into every corner of the county, and into all public elementary and high school campuses. Some of our current efforts include:
- Friday Night Live and Club Live – campus programs at junior high and high schools, promotes drug-free activities. More than 150 students are active in leadership and planning and more than 400 students participate in regular monthly activities.
- Friday Night Live Mentors – Matches trained high school student volunteers with middle grade students for weekly on-campus activities. More than 100 involved.
- Youth Mentor Program – adults mentoring youth for positive role modeling
- Youth Summits and a Youth Commission – high school leadership program
- Countywide Red Ribbon Week events – Well-established, high-profile anti-drug campaign with broad community and school involvement.
- Sober Graduation – Active student-parent committees on three campuses work year-round on Sober Graduation events attended by more than 80% of graduating seniors.
- Every 15 Minutes – High-profile DUI awareness event held at alternating high schools.
- Annual “tobacco sting” with FNL students and health department (Results of the January sting: 15 of 30 stores sold tobacco to minors.)
- Parent and Teen Pledge programs – New program initiated by YES Executive Committee to build awareness and reduce drunk driving.
- Children and Families Commission (First 5 Tuolumne County/Prop 10) – Supports local programs for children ages 0-5.
- Child Abuse Prevention Council – Sub-committee of YES)
- Prescription Drug Awareness Campaign – New effort led by the Education Committee to bring awareness to the potential dangers of prescription drug misuse, the proper disposal of unused or expired prescription drugs and the importance of properly storing these drugs to prevent young people from gaining access.