KAMIAH – During a four-day conference in Washington, D.C., the Upriver Youth Leadership Council’s (UYLC) Youth Advisory Board (YAB) learned how to be better leaders, prevent drugs, and experienced what life outside of the Gem State was like.
Eight YAB members and three of their mentors stayed in D.C. for a total of seven days. Those YAB members included junior Daisy Bower, YAB president, junior Ragen Farris, YAB treasurer, eighth-grader Alexa Davy, middle school representative, senior MaKinna Wilson, YAB vice president, sophomore Autumn Korponay, YAB secretary, sophomore Elizabeth Stemrich, high school representative, freshman Ariel Kane, YAB member, and Caleb Ekah, YAB member. The mentors involved were Leah York, Kama Payton, and Amber Sanderson.
“YAB is youth-led, but it’s adult-guided by UYLC. We are preventing substance abuse by providing a safe environment,” Bower explained when asked what YAB was.
YAB was established in 2017, and since then, they have done many different events, such as Youthfest, New Year’s Eve Lock-In, lunch fundraisers, monthly raffle ticket drawings and more. This conference was a part of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and was called the CADCA Youth Forum. The students described what they learned during the conference, such as leadership qualities and patience.
“It taught you how to collaborate with other youth and do things efficiently and effectively in our community,” Bower said.
“And with people from completely different walks of life, but they have the same issues, you can collaborate with them,” Korponay replied.
“There was also a lot of information about fentanyl and the problem with it,” Farris remarked.
“And the introduction of Narcan into certain communities,” Wilson added.
“Which we already have with UYLC Recovery,” said Bower.
The conference didn’t just teach the students about drug prevention and leadership, many of the students mentioned learning how to talk to people better and coming out of their shells.
“I’m not really good at talking to people, so when we did the how to communicate with people, that was a good class,” Farris said. “It was really interactive. I also really liked how to spread awareness, it was for parents talking to their kids pretty much, how to bring it up without being like too forward.”
“It helped us spread the awareness without coming on too strong at first, explain it to them, and seeing what they think of it and how they want to get help,” Korponay explained.
When they weren’t at the conference, they explored D.C. and everything it had to offer. The group visited three Smithsonian Museums; Natural History, American History, Air and Space, went on a Moonlight Monument Tour, visited the Library of Congress and the Supreme Court, and went to the Holocaust Museum.
“My favorite museum was the Holocaust Museum. It showed me the darker corners of the world and how horrible things can be when people are biased,” Stemrich mentioned.
“A lot of the monuments that we saw have been on my bucket list, I never thought I would be able to see them,” Korponay explained.
“The experience was absolutely incredible for me. This is something that I would have never been able to experience without UYLC, and I appreciate the opportunity more than I can express,” program specialist Sanderson remarked. She has been working with UYLC since 2021. “After watching YAB with other youth across the nation, they seemed to be excelling in their leadership abilities. I hope that they will be able to take what they learn to grow their leadership skills exponentially. As for me, I just hope to continue being a mentor to these incredible youth and getting to watch their journey in making a difference in our community!”
The YAB students also got to meet the representatives and senators of Idaho and learn more about their positions.
“We had a wonderful opportunity to go to the House of Representatives and share with Congressman Fultcher’s office and Congressman Simpson’s office about what great things our students are doing in our community. We told them about our K-6 Program, teen center, and skate park project,” said data entry specialist Payton. She has been working with UYLC for a year and a half. “We also visited with Senator Crapo’s office and Senator Risch, who also posted our visit on his Twitter feed.”
The students got the opportunity to meet the staff of Senator Crapo, and Senator Risch in person.
“We explained what we do to them as a coalition, and how we help out the community, and the programs we do,” Bower explained.
“And how their funding has really helped us expand,” added Korponay.
The students all agreed the trip and the forum was a great experience.
“Being in that environment itself, with a bunch of different people and backgrounds, and learning about how to prevent certain things, and how you can go about it, was all around a comforting thing,” explained Wilson.
“There were so many different kids from different states, and some different countries, and they had the same issues in their communities, and seeing how they were trying to prevent those issues was really cool,” Bower said.
Most of the students had never been to a CADCA forum before, making this a huge experience for them. One student, Autumn Korponay, was the only student who had been before.
“I went last year to Florida to another CADCA conference, but it wasn’t nationwide, it was just Idaho students,” Korponay said.
Finally, the students talked about the fun youth events at the CADCA conference. “The first night was a youth meet and greet, it was a bunch of different activities and board games. Everything for kids to meet each other and meet new people,” Bower explained.
At the Youth Forum, there was around 150 youth attendees, and around 4,000 people at the CADA event in attendance. On the last night, there was a large youth dance for everyone at the forum.
“It was to show that you can have fun, without drugs and alcohol,” Farris explained.
The CADA conference was a great way to teach youth how to be a leader in their community, and provide drug prevention training.
“After attending these conferences, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll find more ways to help people’s point of view in order to help them. I will be a good leader and a good person,” Stemrich remarked.