The Power of Youth Leadership: Guilford Developmental Assets for Youth (DAY) Coalition Reduces Youth Substance Use
Between 2010 and 2016, 30-day substance use among Guilford youth declined dramatically—by 35% for alcohol, 76% for cigarettes, 48% for marijuana and 51% for prescription drugs. Guilford Developmental Assets for Youth (DAY) credits youth leadership as the essential driver of this extraordinary community success.
Where did it all start? Back in 2006, a four-year planning effort, involving leaders from diverse community sectors, aimed to mobilize young people to help each other, create positive peer pressure to live substance-free, and engage the community to support youth.
With this strong mission and vision, Guilford DAY emerged. The coalition, led by a part-time prevention coordinator, includes students as well as adults, with three youth co-chairs and two adult co-chairs. The tide began to turn in 2015, when DAY launched its first youth led prevention effort. The project enabled students who were living sober to see that they were not alone, but were actually in the majority. In 2016, DAY youth extended the effort with DAY Week, including activities at the high school and middle schools, and a “Color Run” fundraiser with the proceeds donated to a local substance abuse recovery group. Young people also led a successful effort to convince Planning and Zoning to prohibit medical marijuana facilities in Guilford.
It is noteworthy that four youth developmental assets, as measured by the SEARCH Institute survey, increased significantly between 2014 and 2016: Parental Boundaries, School Boundaries, Positive Peer Pressure and Adult Role Models. DAY believes the first three asset changes are directly linked to their youth led efforts, and that these asset changes also helped curb youth substance use. Two other significant efforts likely played a role. Guilford has an extraordinary youth mentoring program, which helps reinforce the message that the community values youth. The Positive Coaching Alliance program teaches coaches in the youth recreational leagues how to take advantage of teachable moments, including conversations about substance abuse.
For more information about Guilford DAY and their efforts to prevent youth substance use, click here.