Building leaders of tomorrow

UNITE youth to attend national conference

Four Washougal teens are hoping to make a difference in the local community by attending a national conference.

Washougal High School juniors Sydney Mederos, Katie Boon, Bridgette McCarthy and Scott Anderson will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in the National Youth Leadership Initiative Feb. 6 to 9.

The four are all involved with the UNITE! Washougal Community Coalition. The trip will be funded through a federal, $625,000 Drug-Free Communities grant that UNITE! recently received to help prevent substance use among youth.

UNITE! consists of volunteers from local businesses, the public library, school district, law enforcement, faith-based organizations and city government, as well as parents, youth and community members.

Currently, the focus is to help launch a youth offset of the group. Margaret McCarthy, president, is hoping the four-day training will help the teens come back to Washougal with new ideas and perspectives about how to best do that.

“Everyone thinks it is super fun to go to Washington D.C., but the kids are going to be doing a lot of work,” she said. “They are going to be in meetings from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, and focusing on what is going on in their communities and learning from others. They’ll really dig into the data and present it to other youth. It’s going to be a lot of adult style problem solving.”

Mederos is excited about the opportunity to interact with people from all over the country and gain new insights to help youth locally.

“It will be good to get the bigger picture of what is going on,” she said. “I feel that is very important.”

The training equips youth and their adult advisors with the, “essential knowledge and skills needed to make significant community-level change,” according to Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, the organization that facilitates the event.

“Because we are not old enough to vote, we don’t necessarily have a voice, so making ourselves heard when we can is very important,” said Bridgette McCarthy.

CADCA was formed in 1992 and its mission is to strengthen the capacity of community coalitions to create and maintain safe, healthy and drug-free communities globally. This is accomplished by providing technical assistance and training, public policy advocacy, media strategies and marketing programs, training and special events.

The conference includes meeting with elected representatives in Congress on CADCA’s Capitol Hill Day, to express concerns around local drug issues and to share what they are doing to make a change.

The UNITE! youth who will attend the national conference have been part of the coalition for at least two years.
“Teenagers don’t usually have the connections the way adults do,” Bridgette McCarthy said. “This conference will be a good opportunity to share ideas and get new ones.”

For more information about becoming a member of the new youth coalition, contact margaretmccarthy@washougalsd.org or call 954-3038.