Riverhead Youth Coalition Seniors are June’s Members of the Month

06/03/2020

Riverhead Youth Coalition’s graduating Seniors are June’s Members of the Month. This year’s Seniors are the founding members of the Riverhead Youth Coalition (RYC). The group was established in 2015 when these students were in eighth grade. RYC is one of twelve sectors that comprise the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth. RYC works predominately on community-based, environmental strategies to change conditions that contribute to underage drinking and drug use.

Building Youth Coalition Momentum

Riverhead Youth Coalition members began meeting monthly at the CAP office in August 2015. They established a foundation for the group and began working on various projects. These included Public Service Announcements, Project Sticker Shock, and Medication Take Back events, as well as Samantha Skunk Medicine Safety Lessons. As momentum grew, they developed a recruitment strategy to add younger members. Eventually, RYC grew so large that they partnered with Glenwood Village to host meetings in a larger space. The group now has about 50 members in grades 7-12.

Creating and Implementing Community Change

After years of successful participation, many RYC Seniors also took on leadership positions. They play an integral role in organizing monthly meetings, training new members, and leading annual recruitment activities. Senior members also assist with developing community-based presentations. They deliver presentations to key stakeholders including Meet and Greet attendees, the Riverhead Town Board, and the Suffolk County Legislature’s Health Committee. RYC has increased their member capacity to partner with the larger coalition. This has resulted in 20 Public Service Announcements, 10 Sticker Shock campaigns, 18 Medication Take Back events, 5 Samantha Skunk Medicine Safety lessons, and 4 Meet and Greet events.

Recognition for Positive Outcomes

Riverhead Youth Coalition Seniors have been key in helping the coalition receive national recognition. In 2019 the coalition was named Coalition of the Year by CADCA, the nation’s leading substance abuse prevention organization. Specifically, the award was for demonstrating long-term outcomes. This was the coalition’s third consecutive Coalition of Excellence Award. Previous awards include short-term outcomes in 2017 as well as intermediate outcomes in 2018. In July 2019 Riverhead Youth Coalition Sector Representative Maximilian Solarz was named coalition Member of the Month.

RYC Seniors have made positive community changes that will last long after they move onto the next chapter of their lives. Coalition members appreciate these young people for all they have done. We wish the Riverhead Youth Coalition Seniors best of luck in their future endeavors. Youth Coordinators Kelly Miloski and Cynthia Redmond sat down with RYC Seniors to talk about their experience in the program as their final coalition project. Here are the highlights:

What is your favorite Riverhead Youth Coalition activity?

“My favorite coalition activity is creating and delivering presentations. Presentations help raise awareness and achieve our goal of preventing youth substance use. I also enjoy the publicity that you get from these presentations.” – Maximilian Solarz

“One of my favorite Youth Coalition activities is the annual CAP march. As youth members, we get to attend this event as guest speakers in classrooms. It’s a great experience and awesome opportunity to meet younger students and spread our message. It is also a great way to meet other CAP volunteers and interact in a friendly environment.” – Matthew LaCombe

How have you seen the Riverhead Youth Coalition grow since it was established in 2015?

“The amount of people who have recognized and joined this amazing group just keeps growing and growing which is incredible!” – Emily Amodei

“Riverhead Youth Coalition has grown tremendously since 2015. I remember being in an office size room with a few teenagers around a table. Today the size of the coalition has grown to have meetings held in a much larger space. It is so amazing to see that younger kids want to make a different in their community and decide to join the coalition.” – Nina Geraci

What impact do you believe the Riverhead Youth Coalition has on the community?

“The Riverhead Youth Coalition impacts the community in such a positive way. Seeing the decrease in trends of substance abuse among teens in our community is very rewarding. It also makes me proud to be part of a group that makes change happen.” – Nina Geraci

“The Riverhead Youth Coalition has significantly educated the community about the problem of underage drinking and youth substance use.” – Maximilian Solarz

What skills have you gained from being part of the youth coalition?

“My communication skills have improved a lot through projects that involve public speaking and working with my peers.” – Aaron Walker

“I definitely gained public speaking skills from the youth coalition. I have not always been comfortable with the idea of it, however being part of this organization helped me come out of my shell. Various events and activities also helped me strengthen my confidence in speaking to the public.” – Nina Geraci

Do you have any advice for Riverhead youth?

“One of the most important pieces of advice I could give to our youth is to learn about peer pressure. Know it when you see it and also know that your peers aren’t always going to be the same. Friends come and go and you don’t have to feel like doing drugs is going to make you cool or fit in. ‘Stay in school’ is sort of cliché, but it’s good advice. Keep your grades up but make sure to have some fun while doing it. High school doesn’t last forever so make the memories while you can, but don’t ruin your experience by giving into peer pressure and slipping down the slope to drugs.” –Matthew LaCombe

“Live your life to the fullest without the use of substances and you can have even more fun! Don’t let peer pressure change your life negatively.” – Emily Amodei

Interested in learning more about coalition membership?

To learn more about joining the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth , contact Kelly Miloski at (631) 727-3722 ext. 106 or Kelly.Miloski@RiverheadCAP.org.

RYC Class of 2020 pictured

Top row from left: Maximilian Solarz, Emily Amodei, Ben Payton, William Burkowsky.
Bottom row: Tucker Woychuk, Aaron Walker, Paola Sanchez, Nina Geraci, Matthew LaCombe.