What if people within the very city you lived in decided to come together with the goal of building an engaged community by empowering healthier choices, and providing tools and resources so that families could grow stronger and better together?
This is exactly what Unite!, a community coalition in Washougal, has been doing since 2012. Birthed from recognizing the needs of the community, specifically within their youth, everyday people came together to address substance misuse within their community. Their vision was to support youth by encouraging families and enriching community through guiding healthy choices.
They worked hard to understand that prevention is not about treating the problem but identifying the underlying causes as well as local contributing factors so that they could be addressed in order to initiate positive change. The work being done is rooted in prevention science by applying the Strategic Prevention Framework that the coalition formatted with the goal of reducing youth substance use and misuse.
As a data- driven coalition, they have gained insight through the Healthy Youth and Community Survey of the beliefs and attitudes connected to behaviors, helping them to measure change and effectiveness of programs as well as drive programs and strategies that the coalition can use to reduce underage drinking, marijuana use and prescription drug misuse among youth in the Washougal community.
Providing parent education, empowering youth leadership through skill building and training, increasing public awareness of prevention efforts, empowering the voice of the youth, initiating policy change and increasing access and reducing barriers to resources, they are influencing positive change. By partnering with law enforcement to support the National Drug Take Back event within their local area, providing evidence based parenting classes such as Guiding Good Choices and Incredible Years and addressing attitudes and beliefs around youth substance use through positive community norms campaigns, Unite! is well on its way to seeing their vision come to fruition.
“Partnerships are essential as we accomplish more together.”
Working with youth, parents, the school district, law enforcement, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, treatment and mental health organizations, city government, volunteer groups, youth serving organizations, businesses, healthcare professionals and media; the coalition gains differing skill sets, experiences and perspectives that make the impact that is needed.
There is a saying in this work, “nothing about us, without us” and what that means is that whatever we work towards, we want to do it with the input from the very people we are serving. Everyone belongs in our community, so everything we do comes from seeing through this lens.
Whether its families, the student, the teacher or the business owner; this coalition is the community. It’s everyone coming together to build a thriving and healthy community that looks after its youth as they are the next rising generation. It’s working together by tapping into one another’s skill sets and listening to what each other has to say that is making the difference and allowing the city of Washougal to reach its potential.
Out of the heart of concerned citizens that saw the best in their city and believed in what it could become, Unite! is paving the way for a stronger, healthier and more united community.
Nicole Elliott is a writer for Vision Media Interactive, a digital marketing business for clients all over the U.S. She also does volunteer work with the community coalition Unite! in Washougal.