Over 40 students and parents gathered together for the 1st Annual Mercer County Youth to Youth (Y2Y) End-of-Year Recognition Day. It was held on Monday, April 23rd at Briarwood Village’s “Gathering Place.” The Mercer County Y2Y group is ran through Foundations Behavioral Health Services and is open to 7th-12th grade students in Mercer County. The group’s mission is “Mercer County youth coming together to rise above the effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, peer pressure, bullying, and suicide.” Their tagline is “Elevating Above Negative Choices.”

Those youth in attendance at the recognition day were (listed with grade in school) from Celina: Aleisha Mott (11th), Bella Schnell (8th), Destiny Anderson (7th), Destiny Flynn (9th), Kaleb Fishbaugh (8th), Sydney Baucher (8th); from Coldwater: Brooklyn Fridley (7th), Elise Byron (7th), Jasmine Schulze (7th), Kendall Bird (8th), Thomas Pax (10th); from Fort Recovery: Ashley Byram (10th), Cameron Romer (11th), Chloe Sutton (8th), Danielle Kuess (9th), Elena Evers (9th), Lyvia Kunk (8th), Owen Sheridan (11th), Robby LeFevre (11th); from Marion Local: Kendra Wendel (9th); from Parkway: Dakota Hays (9th), Violet Taylor (10th); from St. Henry: Kylie Miller (11th), Leah Roll (11th)

Mercer County Y2Y members participated in presenting and sharing successes about the group throughout the evening. The adult allies of the group were introduced: Amy Miller, Laura Sanford and Jess Scheer from Foundations Behavioral Health Services. Jodi Wenning, community volunteer, was not able to be present that evening.

The mission and tagline were shared to those in attendance, as well as the adult allies vision:

“Building and elevating youth leaders to make a positive change in our communities!”

Owen Sheridan and Leah Roll, who attended the CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) conference in Washington D.C. in February were also recognized. CADCA’s National Leadership Forum is a four-day event packed with opportunities to learn the latest strategies to fight substance abuse. The forum brought together over 3,000 participants representing coalitions from all regions of the country and internationally, government leaders, youth, prevention specialists, addiction treatment professionals, addiction recovery advocates, researchers, education institutions, law enforcement professionals, and faith-based leaders. The youth were given an opportunity to share their experiences from this conference, which also included a meeting with a local congressman to discuss local concerns and ideas that affect our youth. Just recently, 7th and 8th grade students were added to the Y2Y group. This idea came from Leah, following the conference. It was encouraged to get youth involved in and excited about prevention at a younger age, so we can hopefully get them “hooked” on prevention instead of drugs.

Owen Sheridan, Leah Roll, Jordan Kline and Rayne Reisinger were recognized, as they attended the Mercer County Youth to Youth International Conference at Capital University last June and those present shared their experiences. Youth to Youth is the recognized leader for engaging youth in positive change. Each summer, Youth to Youth offers leadership opportunities for high school students and the adults who work with them. The conference experience, led by trained teens and adults, serves as a vital catalyst to initiate or improve their youth prevention programming. The four-day conference allows youth to meet drug-free teens from all over the country, enhance skills to make positive life choices, attend informative break-out sessions, hear speakers, develop action plans to create change back home in their schools and communities, learn vital leadership qualities and skills they can use for a lifetime. There will be at least 12 local youth attending the conference this summer, including Leah and Owen being selected as youth staff and Amy Miller as adult staff.

718.5 hours total volunteer hours were served by Mercer County Y2Y participants around their mission. The top 3 volunteers were: 3rd place: Destiny Flynn with 41.25 hours, 2nd: Owen Sheridan with 70.25 hours, 1st: Leah Roll with 82.25 hours. These hours included events like the S.TA.R. (Students Teaching About Resistance) and MINI S.T.A.R. promotions and the retreats as well, back to school nights/orientations, Superhero 5K for the Mercer County Prevention Coalition, WIC’s Healthy Kids Day, DARE kids games at the Mercer County Fair, Relay for Life Kid’s Games, meetings with local law enforcement, Coldwater and Celina Parades, delivering Christmas Cards and singing carols at Briarwood Village, and CADCA conference in D.C.

It was also explained that after a youth attends their 3rd Mercer County Y2Y meeting, they have the opportunity to sign the pledge stating their commitment to make positive choices and serve as a leader, including staying free of alcohol and other drugs. Students who signed their pledge this year include: from Celina: Aleisha Mott, Bella Schnell, Destiny Flynn, Leigha Gregory, Mackenzye Perry, Rayne Reisinger, Tony H.; from Coldwater, Anthony Kunk, Jordan Kline, Thomas Pax; from Fort Recovery: Ashley Byram, Cameron Romer, Chloe Sutton, Danielle Kuess, Elena Evers, Owen Sheridan, Robby LeFevre; from Marion Local: Carri McNelly; Kendra Wendel; from Parkway: Dakota Hays; from St. Henry: Kylie Miller, Leah Roll, Natalie Uhlenhake, Sammi Gast.

Youth’s meeting attendance were also recognized. The top three included: 3rd place: Dakota Hays with 18, 2nd place: Leah Roll with 20, 1st place: Ashley Byram with 21. These included regular Youth to Youth meetings as well as the additional S.T.A.R. retreat planning meetings.

Three new members this year shared their experience and favorite aspects and all members from each grade were recognized. The “Let’s Talk” video was shared with the group, as well as some local youth data on substance use and abuse, depression, and social media use. If anyone is wanting this presentation shared to a civic or parent group, please contact Amy Miller at 419-584-1000.

For more information about the Mercer County Y2Y group, contact Laura or Amy at 419-584-1000 or lauras@foundationsbhs.org or for events throughout the summer. Follow Mercer County Youth to Youth on Facebook or mercercounty_y2y on Instagram.

The adult allies would like to thank all the youth who have been involved and all the parents and community who have supported this cause and have been positive role models for local youth. Together we CAN and WILL make a positive difference in Mercer County.