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Dover Youth to Youth

International City/County Management Association - 2007 - Program Excellence Award: Community Health and Safety (10,000 - 49,999)

Summary

In Dover, New Hampshire, where 85 percent of crime has been linked to drug and alcohol abuse, the city met the problem with Dover Youth to Youth (Y2Y), a comprehensive, peer-oriented substance abuse prevention program that gives students in grades 6–12 the opportunity to be part of the solution. Dover Y2Y takes on initiatives in five areas of community advocacy: community awareness, legislation, enforcement, media, and national presentations.

Description

Because drug and alcohol abuse often begin before adulthood, addressing these problems among youth can be critical to a community’s quality of life. In Dover, New Hampshire, where 85 percent of crime has been linked to drug and alcohol abuse, the city met the problem with Dover Youth to Youth (Y2Y), a comprehensive, peer-oriented substance abuse prevention program that gives students in grades 6–12 the opportunity to be part of the solution.

Since its inception in 1993 with a dozen sixth graders, Y2Y has grown to almost 200 students each year, making it one of the largest programs of its type in the state. Students can formally join in sixth grade, where they are exposed to Y2Y role models in the classroom, engage in simple projects, and learn such basic advocacy skills as public speaking. At each level they get the chance to develop new skills and accept more responsibility. In high school, the projects are more aggressive in tone: they have more “attitude,” in keeping with the age.

Participants are divided into seven teams, each with more than 20 students and its own adult advisers. Teams focus on their own specific prevention projects and often collaborate on projects. As students get older, the teams become more independent and their projects more sophisticated. Older students are also more active in program design.

Dover Y2Y takes on initiatives in five areas of community advocacy:

• Community awareness: Each year, Y2Y students undertake projects to raise the public’s awareness of substance abuse issues. For example, they have demonstrated against the tobacco industry’s marketing of candy-flavored products to attract youthful customers; protested the redirection of state funds away from prevention efforts; and testified before the state Senate on smoke-free restaurants. They also work with local stores to raise awareness of the dangers of underage drinking.

• Legislation: Over the past seven years, Y2Y students have proposed and passed four city ordinances and three state laws on substance abuse–related issues. This past year, they proposed, testified for, and got passed a state law requiring all cigarettes sold in the state to be self-extinguishing (to prevent fires).

• Enforcement: Since the program began, Y2Y members have assisted the police department with tobacco vendor compliance checks. Students try to buy tobacco products to see whether stores are selling to minors. Clerks that sell to minors receive a court summons and a fine; those that refuse to sell receive a gift, such as a t-shirt or mug.

• Media: In addition to creating posters and placing ads in local newspapers, Y2Y students have written and produced more than 50 radio public service announcements. Many of these have won awards, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans to distribute them around the country. The students also have made several videos and a nationally broadcast Internet presentation.

• Presentations: Every year, Y2Y students bring their drug-free message to students across the country. In Dover, they teach an interactive prevention lesson to all second graders; they conduct a fifth-grade assembly; and they recently addressed eighth graders with “Lyndsey’s Story: The Truth about Alcohol,” a presentation that focuses on the real risks of using alcohol (falls, addiction, depression, violence, teen pregnancy) and on the alcohol industry’s deceptive advertising tactics. They also visit other communities to teach students how to be youth advocates; in one trip, they provided three hours of training on media development, project design, and public speaking to students in Stoughton, Massachusetts. Lastly, they hold workshops at national gatherings, such as the Eastern States Prevention Conference and the National Leadership Conference on Underage Drinking.

The Y2Y program is supervised by the Dover police department’s Community Outreach Bureau and is funded through the police budget. Staffing the teams, which annually costs about $60,000, is largely covered through state and federal grants. Other program costs (food, supplies, travel, events, etc.), which exceed $20,000 each year, are covered by youth registration fees, fund raising, and cash or in-kind donations from the community. When there are social problems to be tackled, youth are an underused resource in most communities. However, if given the information to form an educated opinion, the skills to act on that opinion, and the opportunity to apply those skills, they will get involved and be part of the solution. By raising awareness, pressing for legislation, and carrying their message to students around the country, the Y2Y students have shown how empowered youth can make a difference.

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Tags: Criminal Justice and Public Safety, Education and Training, Health and Social Services, Youth Services





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