‘Before this I wasn’t very passionate about anything’; Teens attend anti-drug conference in U.S. capital

Members of Iron, Kane and Garfield County youth coalitions attended a conference in Washington DC to learn about drug use prevention, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Heidi Baxley, St George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Members of the Iron County Teens Against Drugs Coalition traveled to Washington D.C. in early February to attend the Community of Anti-Drug Coalitions of America conference.

Seven members of ICTAD, accompanied by youth from Kane and Garfield Counties, attended the conference with four adult leaders to learn about information about drug trends and effective methods for preventing alcohol and drug use in youth.

Cedar High School sophomore and ICTAD Social Media Representative Liz Bates said the conference focused on information relevant to youth and peers her age.

“It had things that related to us so we could put it into perspective for our lives and then we could take the information we learned back to our communities and apply it in a way that’d be most helpful,” Bates said.

Youth from Iron, Kane and Garfield County presented positive prevention policies to Congressman Chris Stewart | Photo courtesy of Heidi Baxley, St George News / Cedar City News

Cedar High School senior and ICTAD President Liz Gillespie said she also learned about leadership as it relates to drug use prevention.

“They just talked about how you can be a leader in your community and how you can help people who have these addictions and how we can speak to our peers in a positive and proactive way,” Gillespie said.

Bates added the conference also featured public speaking advice.

“The trainings weren’t only just for learning about vaping and the effects they have our body, some of it was for public speaking so we could give the information that we learned and give it to our peers,” Bates said.

While in Washington D.C., youth coalition members were able to discuss their goals and potential policies that could help achieve those goals with national legislators.

Co-advisor to the youth coalition and prevention specialist with Southwest Behavioral Health Center Heidi Baxley said she was proud of the members that attended the conference.

“It was just so exciting to see them be able to interact with these people that normally we’d be really intimidated by, but they were so confident and well spoken,” Baxley said. “When these policy makers had questions these kids knew the answers and were confident about answering.

Kids their age typically aren’t as invested as in substance use prevention as one would hope, so these kids are volunteering their time to do something they’re passionate about and that made me really proud to be involved with.”

Youth coalition members were able to attend the conference with funding from a Drug Free Communities grant that the adult Iron County Prevention Coalition received in 2018.

Gillespie said the youth coalition’s primary goal is prevention.

“Our main focus is on vaping and e-cigarettes because that’s one of the biggest issues that we’ve seen in our community,” Gillespie said.

Jessica Anderson asking Mitch Zeller of the Federal Drug Administration about a new E-Cigarette flavor ban policy, date unspecified | Photo courtesy of Heidi Baxley, St George News / Cedar City News

Bates added that her concern lies with educating her peers.

“A lot of kids I know, and a lot of people I talk to and relate to, they vape because of peer pressure, because they think it will look cool,” Bates said. “I just want to get information about why it’s harmful.”

Bates also said she has experience with a loved one using vaping products, and the potential harm hits closer to home when someone with a personal connection is being affected.

“Seeing how that’s going to transform into something bigger, it’s just scary,” Bates said.

Bates said she feels like joining the youth coalition has given her more knowledge and confidence.

“Before this I wasn’t very passionate about anything, I didn’t really have a purpose.” she said. “Now I feel like I have a say in the community and I’m affecting the world for good. It’s just given me confidence and given me a lot of knowledge and things that I can take into my life when I’m older. It’s a small step but it has a huge impact.”

For Drug Facts Week at the beginning of April, the youth coalition plans to host several activities at Cedar High School and Canyon View High School to share information and prevention methods.

This is pending any dismissal related to COVID-19 prevention.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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