By: Kianne (4 year STASHA member)
Before my very first day of training with Clark County STASHA Peer Education Program, I had never been a part of prevention before. I had never been in a setting where youth and adults were as passionate as they were about what they did (prevention). I didn’t know it included thousands of people from all across Washington State. Eventually, I learned what prevention is… and it is an abundant community of wonderful people. The purpose and goal of each individual is united by this idea of prevention, which is educating others on healthy coping skills, habits, and mindfulness in hopes of creating good habits for the future. Just learning about all of the wonderful opportunities I would have a chance to take part in while being a part of STASHA is when I knew I wanted to be a part of prevention and that I wanted it to be a part of my future.
My first encounter with STASHA was quite nerve wracking. It was during our annual fall training (where there is guaranteed to be magic), but I found myself in a room full of strangers who quickly became friends and family. I just did not know what the possibilities would be yet. Beginning the year off in training ignited a passion within me and everyone else I had no idea I was capable of. Being in a room full of people who truly care and want to make a change is more than likely going to inspire many. As I continued on with STASHA, I attended meetings, workshops, conferences, and team building opportunities that expanded my horizons. I was taught many valuable life lessons that can apply to prevention or even day to day living. Most importantly, I created or expanded the connections in my community and found that connection is the best prevention.
The best thing anyone can do is find what youth are passionate about and make the work about that! You do not have to start out with a passion for drug prevention, it can grow over time. You can find passion in project planning, community engagement, art, leadership, anything! All of those passions can relate directly to the prevention world and you will see that as you explore and discover all of it more. If you run a prevention program, when you find what your group of youth are passionate about and make the work about their passions, they want to be there. No matter the timeline, no matter how much it takes, they want to do all of that. So just finding their passion is the best way to get youth interested in prevention.
A passion project we as STASHA took part in was the creation of a peer to peer workshop called “Good Friends in Hard Times. Friendship. Own It”. This workshop served the purpose of peer to peer education, and allowed us to directly connect with the fellow youth in our community. We wanted to help teens feel confident in supporting each other through hard times, build healthy boundaries amongst each other, or know when/how to reach out to a trusted adult or resource. It was nice to be able to talk to our peers about difficult topics such as this. We also called a hotline as a resource example and just asked them, “hey, when we do our workshop can we call you and just show our classroom of youth what it is like if they ever decided to call you?” I think the biggest impact is that youth came away learning they are not alone and they can find connections, and there are a lot of people in the community working for them and care about this conference with the goal of getting youth involved.
A lot of people in the prevention world say “connection is the best prevention”. I would encourage youth to get involved because getting involved in STASHA and Prevent Together Battle Ground has filled my life with purpose and meaningful things. Being supported and having good connections is the best way to reduce substance use.
Allowing myself to be vulnerable has helped me to grow in my personal life as well as here today with all of you. None of us are here to judge, shame, or exclude anyone, we are all here to provide each other with a sense of love and belonging and the peers here that I have seen vulnerable, have fueled me with strength to be as brave as they were. We choose to be vulnerable to express who we are and do what humans do best, connect.
I would encourage people my age to get involved in groups and volunteer opportunities, even if they are not interested in prevention, because you can find a safe place to explore who you are, a second home, and because you can be surrounded by people who care about you and how you truly feel. And although what we do in prevention is completely amazing, the connections will take you so much farther and like everyone says connection is the best prevention.
It’s okay to not know who you are yet. It’s okay to be figuring things out. It’s okay to be trying out new things. For a long time I had no idea who I was, and where I wanted to go, and who I wanted to be. And I honestly didn’t know until I joined STASHA and I started getting involved in my community. And today I still have no idea who I am. I have no idea who I’m going to be ten years from now. But I have a really good idea of who I want to be through all of this. So I guess my advice is, if you want to try something, try it! If you want to be involved in your community, there’s so many things to reach out to. It’s hard sometimes to get those things but we have applications to join STASHA, and there’s just so many community resources to be involved in. Put yourself out there! Sometimes it gets a little scary to put yourself out there, but at the end of the day you’re not really going to gain anything bad from trying.
I would say it is not about changing a thousand lives, it is about changing one. Sometimes you have to put yourself first because prevention can be a difficult place to work in. There are a lot of things that can go on and be a drain of energy sometimes, so put yourself first.
You do not need to already be passionate about drug prevention to join STASHA. You do not need to be anything or fit anyone else's narrative but your own. You are wonderful exactly how you are and uniqueness is celebrated. If you are interested in joining STASHA, I encourage you to do so and make those long lasting connections and use the time to discover your passions.