Collective effort helps kids make good choices

by Guy Blanchette
President and CEO, Drug Free Collier

Guy Blanchette

The youth of today are faced with increasingly complex situations as they grow, learn and attempt to find purpose, manage themselves and their relationships, and make healthy choices. Through advances in technology, changes in societal values and expectations placed on them from multiple directions, kids are often confronted with decisions they have not yet been given the tools to manage. Fundamentals that were often developed on the playground such as group dynamics, anger management, fair play, compassion and competition are now introduced much later in life, failing to build on the basic foundations of these principles when they need them the most.

Although many of the issues faced by kids today such as bullying (cyber and traditional), drug use and peer pressure have plagued society for ages, it is the intensity in which they are presented that has increased significantly. The information age has brought information overload. It is difficult to sift through it all without the underpinning concepts of decision-making paradigms and foundational life skills – in other words, how to make the “right” decision. Helping young people develop these life skills is a responsibility and an opportunity that we must all share. Parents play the primary role, yes, but given the vast and deep challenges facing young people today, it’s imperative we view the well-being of our children as a community wide mission.dedicated to providing support to create a safe environment that fosters the development of youth and the community.

Under the leadership of Dr. Kamela Patton, Collier County Public Schools Superintendent; Sheriff Kevin Rambosk; Dr. Allen Weiss CEO of NCH; Rey Prezeshkan Chair of Drug Free Collier; Scott Burgess CEO of David Lawrence Center, and other community leaders, the coalition known as Drug Free Collier has implemented the key elements of the Collective Impact Model. This collaborative model includes a common agenda, the establishment of a shared measurement, the creation of mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication and a strong
backbone to provide these fundamental building blocks to the young people of Collier County.

As individuals, each participant of the coalition has been dedicated to providing best in class services and programming to promote the overall health and wellness of the community. As a collective, the coalition is able to share resources and subject matter expertise to enhance and promote program initiatives such as the Blue Zones Project® led by NCH, Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s D.A.R.E.® and Summer Programs, Drug Free Collier’s CORE Society and Operation Medicine Cabinet®, David Lawrence Center’s Life Skills Training® and Recovery programs, and the many programs provided by Collier County Public Schools. We are so fortunate that we have a long-standing commitment throughout our community to work in close collaboration. At Drug Free Collier, we are taking our partnership to the next level, bringing together all of our partners as we develop a new program to be delivered in Collier County schools and youth development centers.

Our comprehensive program will educate on the dangers of substance abuse in all of its forms, of course. In addition, we are addressing some of the underlying issues of substance abuse and ensuring our youth have a sense of purpose, are clear on their personal values and set goals they are passionate about. Our program will also help students cultivate the self-esteem, social and emotional skills, and problem-solving competencies to make healthy decisions.

Our staff will co-facilitate these programs with passionate subject matter experts from the partners I’ve mentioned and others including Tobacco Free Collier, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and possibly new ones. While it certainly takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a coalition to achieve an outcome. We thank each and every one of our coalition partners for their critical contributions to achieving our shared mission of preventing substance abuse among our youth and helping our kids make good choices that lead to a great future.

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