Granite Youth Alliance
Kids and young adults who abuse prescription drugs often find themselves walking a path to ruin. Compulsion becomes addiction, then school, family, friends — everything else becomes secondary to feeding the habit.
SOlving the Issue
In the Greater Seacoast, one in six kids has abused some kind of prescription drug. To face this growing problem, United Way of the Greater Seacoast decided to create an even greater opportunity. They would empower those closest to the problem — the kids — and work with them to root out the problem at its source. Children and youth would become the anti-addiction advocates, supporters, and problem solvers their friends desperately needed.
In 2013, United Way of the Greater Seacoast made a long-term investment with a simple premise: create a cohort of young people who are deeply committed to solving problems in their school or community, and provide them with the knowledge and skills to become effective agents of change. Created to bring together students from throughout the region, the kids of the Granite Youth Alliance tackle the problem of substance abuse from within.
How It Works
It starts when students join the Granite Youth Alliance, some as early as 6th grade. They come from all kinds of backgrounds, and join a year-round middle and high school program with advisors to guide them through three phases of effective social change.
- Understanding the Issue. Students learn as much as they can about a specific facet of the substance abuse issue. In the case of opioid misuse, students work to understand how such drugs get into the wrong hands in the first place, and why someone who becomes addicted to painkillers might move to heroin or other drugs.
- Solving the Problem. Students devise a plan and develop the skills to effectively approach the problem. They learn how to speak to anyone from elementary school-aged children to community leaders, learn how the legislative process works, and how to testify before policy makers so they can influence the system at the highest levels.
- Putting Ideas into Action. Students work to raise awareness about the dangers and warning signs of substance abuse. They produce public service announcements, deliver presentations in their school, and create age-appropriate programming for younger children. They educate vendors on keeping tobacco and alcohol away from kids, and even lobby the state legislature to pass bills that will help alleviate the problem.
The program culminates with the Granite Youth Film Festival, a two-day event presented by O’Neil Theater in Epping and sponsored by Exeter Hospital, Amerigas, Atlantic Gymnastics, and Northeast Credit Union. More than a dozen participating teams — ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old — research a topic and pitch their ideas to a panel of adult prevention specialists and community members. Then they write, direct, produce, and star in short films around a topic specifically addressing substance abuse. Films are shown at school assemblies, in health classes, and screened as part of community meetings.