Riverhead youth coalition
The goal of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth is to prevent alcohol and other drug use among youth and promote a safe and healthy community. The Riverhead Youth Coalition (RYC) plays a key role in the larger coalition. While the Peer Leadership program is a school-based program, RYC works predominantly on community-based, environmental strategies to change conditions that contribute to underage drinking and drug use. Often times this involves reducing accessibility to these substances through partnerships with law enforcement, businesses and government officials. Youth coalition members also provide a unique voice to raise awareness in the community about these issues through social media and public service announcements.
The reasons for substance abuse are complex. Not one strategy or outreach effort will reach everyone in the community, but with an active youth coalition, we can broaden our ability to identify and educate the Riverhead community about the risks and consequences of substance use.
RYC welcomes new members to participate in meetings, projects, and campaigns. Youth volunteers are required to submit an application with parental permission slips. RYC meetings are held once a month at the Glenwood Village Clubhouse in Riverhead. All members are notified of meetings via e-mail and the Remind app. Additional RYC meetings may be scheduled as needed when projects are in progress. Members help decide which projects best fit into our current strategic plan.
It is a requirement that youth coalition members attend a minimum of two meetings per school year to maintain their membership and obtain community service hours, if applicable. In addition, youth coalition members are required to participate in a minimum of two coalition projects per school year. RYC members serve as role models and represent the mission of the Riverhead Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth and Riverhead CAP. As such, youth coalition members must agree not to smoke, vape, or use alcohol or illegal drugs while involved in the coalition. This includes special occasions.
Through their leadership skills, RYC members create positive change in the Riverhead community by raising awareness about the risks and consequences of drug and alcohol abuse among youth and helping to reduce access to these substances. We accomplish this through a variety of projects, including: Sticker Shock Campaign, Medication Take Back Events, Environmental Scans, Media Campaigns, Town Hall Meetings, Presentations, and the Samantha Skunk Program. Descriptions of each can be found under the Projects tab and you can watch a short video of the projects here. Anyone interested in participating in the RYC should contact Riverhead CAP at (631) 727-3722; speak to Ms. Miloski at ext. 106 or Ms. Redmond at ext. 107.
In 1982, CAP and parent volunteers began conducting a substance abuse prevention education program (Life Skills) for all students in the Pulaski Street Elementary School. Since 1987, CAP has been training 8th grade and high school students to participate in the monthly program. Peer Leaders assist adult presenters by acting as role models and group activity leaders for the monthly presentations. Peer Leadership training takes place once a week during lunch and provides students with the information and public speaking skills they need to conduct an effective classroom presentation. High School Peer Leaders who demonstrate a commitment to the program are eligible to become classroom presenters and mentor the newer students. The program concludes with the Annual Say NO to Drugs March.
As role models to both elementary school students and their peers, CAP Peer Leaders sign a voluntary no-use contract and agree not to use alcohol, tobacco, vape products, or illegal drugs while they are involved with the program (this includes special occasions). Through the weekly training, they learn information and skills to make healthy decisions for themselves and to assist their peers in making health-promoting choices as well. A copy of the Peer Leadership contract can be found under the documents tab.
In addition to the weekly Peer Leadership training, CAP conducts a variety of workshops during the year to address areas that require more training and education. New Peer Leaders participate in a two-day Summer Workshop in late June to prepare them to enter the program in September. They learn and practice communication skills, role-playing, public speaking, team building, leadership skills and stress management. A full day Alcohol Workshop for middle school Peer Leaders takes place every January; the goal of the workshop is to increase knowledge and understanding of alcohol, the disease of addiction and its effects on family members. This workshop prepares students to teach the alcohol lesson at Pulaski Street School. High school students assist in facilitating the workshops and act as role models for the middle school students.
The CAP Peer Leadership Program has demonstrated statistically significant positive outcomes for both the Pulaski Street School students and the Peer Leaders. Elementary school students enjoy the interaction, role-playing and support from the older students, and learn the skills and information they need to make healthy choices. In the past, participation in the program specifically helped 95% of the students who never used alcohol, tobacco and other drugs by delaying experimentation, as well as the remaining 5% who reported that they had tried these drugs and stopped using all since joining the program.
Eighth grade and high school students who want more information or are interested in participating in the program should contact the CAP social workers: Mrs. Keller in the middle school (room N-30) and Ms. Meyer in the high school (room 205C).
The Riverhead Peacemakers are a fourth grade student-led anti-bullying movement, started in 2012 at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School. Their message is, “Speak up, don’t be a bystander, forgive others, accept others for their differences, include others, seek help if you need it, and we can make a difference.” The fourth graders at Phillips Avenue Elementary School also adopted this student movement.
The Peacemakers in both schools meet with Shannon Kutner, Riverhead CAP’s elementary social worker, during recess to discuss ways to prevent and reduce bullying in their schools. They begin the school year by reading The Juice Box Bully to every class, and then ask students to sign a pledge not to bully and to speak up if someone needs help. In January, the students assist their schools by organizing student and staff participation in The Great Kindness Challenge. District-wide participation in this event has resulted in Riverhead becoming a Kindness Certified School District by the worldwide organization, Kids for Peace.
For more information contact Shannon Kutner at (631) 369-2935 or Shannon.Kutner@Riverhead.net.