Think Before You Pink

Beverly Canin during her luncheon keynote presentation. 

Beverly Canin is first and foremost a patient advocate; she is also a breast cancer survivor.

She led our Summit lunch plenary, speaking about the correlation between alcohol and cancer—specifically female breast cancer.

We know alcohol may increase the risk of breast cancer by damaging DNA in cells, and that alcohol can increase levels of estrogen and other hormones associated with breast cancer. Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have three drinks per week have a 15% greater risk of breast cancer. Canin shared these and other startling statistics with our audience at the 2018 Statewide Summit.

She also explained the term “pinkwashing,” which was coined by the organization Breast Cancer Action, where Canin sits on the board of directors.  Pinkwashing occurs when a company or organization promotes a pink ribbon product and appears to support breast cancer research or awareness, but at the same time produces, manufactures, or sells products that are linked to the disease. The alcohol industry has been guilty of pinkwashing, and Canin said it’s important for consumers to do their research and advocate against the practice. One of the more extreme examples of this practice is cancer-related organizations who promote events and fundraisers that often include alcohol, or are sponsored by alcohol companies.

Canin herself was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, and she quickly became aware of the importance of cancer advocacy because so much conflicting information made it difficult to make sense of it all. Through her advocacy, she also became increasingly aware of the link between breast cancer and alcohol consumption.

At Texans Standing Tall, we work to stay up to date and share news and information about the increased risk associated with breast cancer and alcohol. It was meaningful to have an opportunity to hear from a survivor who has excelled at researching the link between breast cancer and alcohol, as well as advocating for herself and for others.


Stories of Hope

From L to R: Cynthia Schiebel, Sierra Castedo, and Nigel Cunningham Williams

Sierra Castedo recalls drinking kahlua with milk as early as age 10. She grew up outside of the U.S. in an environment that was more permissive when it came to youth alcohol use. Having a drink at a young age under parental supervision “wasn’t a big deal.” She drank every day in college, but she was making good grades so she didn’t believe she was an addict – at least not a typical addict.

Nigel Cunningham Williams began getting high every single day when he started attending a public high school. His grades and attendance dropped, his group of friends changed – and his parents decided military school was the answer. (It wasn’t.) After barely graduating from high school, he transitioned from marijuana to mushrooms to methamphetamines. It was only after attending the funeral of a friend who had overdosed that he realized the body in the casket could have been his own.

In one of our plenary sessions at our recent Statewide Summit, Cynthia Schiebel – a licensed professional counselor, trainer, and life coach who has been sober and in recovery for more than 30 years – led a conversation with Sierra and Nigel, who shared their stories of recovery and hope with our Statewide Summit attendees.

Today, Sierra and Nigel are both in long-term recovery, and they are dedicating their lives to helping others who are struggling with addiction as well. Sierra is President of the Center for Students in Recovery at the University of Texas at Austin; Nigel works with Rise Recovery in San Antonio.

The “Stories of Hope” panel reminds us that addiction does not discriminate, that access to drugs and alcohol is easier than we realize, and that younger people are the most vulnerable.
The panelists’ stories also remind us why our prevention work is especially important – if we can make changes in our communities so that it’s harder for all youth to access substances, not only can we help prevent more young people from encountering some of the difficulties that Sierra and Nigel faced, but we can also help save lives.

We are grateful Cynthia, Sierra, and Nigel took the time to share their stories and inspire Summit attendees to keep working towards creating healthier, safer communities for all Texans.


The Heart of Our Work

MADD Victim Advocates Kathy Hernandez and Dani Simien

Kathy Hernandez lost her 19-year-old daughter, Casey, nearly 11 years ago in a devastating car crash. Casey got behind the wheel after she had been drinking at a party where adults provided alcohol.

Dani Simien’s life was forever altered in the same crash. He was Casey’s victim, and at the time of the 2007 crash, he was just 18 years old.

Dani, now 30, became paralyzed as a result of the injuries sustained in the 2007 head-on collision, and a few years later, began working with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Kathy also became involved with MADD as a way to honor her daughter’s life.

Kathy and Dani share a unique bond, and for the last several years, they have also shared the same mission: as MADD representatives, they travel the country, often together, sharing their heartbreaking and inspiring stories with groups like ours.

We were fortunate to have them lead a plenary at our Statewide Summit.

For Dani and Kathy, every speaking opportunity is one more step toward healing and helping others.

It is also an opportunity to teach people that underage drinking and impaired driving affect everyone—even the “good kids.”  Casey excelled academically and athletically, and had set her sights on a career on forensic psychology when she got behind the wheel of her Mustang after consuming an unknown amount of alcohol at a party. Dani, meanwhile, had dreams of his own. Ever since the third grade, he had dreamed of being a firefighter. “I wanted to do certain things with my life,” he shared with the audience. “Instead, I’m in a position to talk to people and tell my story.”

Dani said being an advocate through MADD’s Victim panels, in communities, and in schools has been critical to his healing. Speaking to groups allows him to achieve one of his goals, which is to reach more than one person at a time. He said he and Kathy have “the power to bring life to a story” that they hope people will hear. Beyond telling stories, Kathy and Dani have become activists and advocates. Kathy is involved with her local Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse so that she can get involved in more prevention work—such as reducing underage drinking through the passage of social host ordinances in her area.

Kathy said she would do anything to trade places with her daughter but because she can’t, she will continue to focus on prevention through advocacy.

“If I can help save parents from having to live this life, then maybe she didn’t die for nothing.”

We all have a role to play in creating a community in which young people aren’t solely responsible for their relationship to alcohol. Through community-based initiatives like social host ordinances, we can hold adults accountable while reducing youth access to alcohol at house parties and in other social situations. In doing so, we can help keep young Texans safe and healthy – not just as kids, but well into adulthood.


Effectively Engaging Youth

Nigel Wrangham during his opening keynote presentation.

Nigel Wrangham is a youth and leadership trainer who understands that youth are an integral part of an organization’s activities—not just a box to check off.

He recently addressed our Statewide Summit attendees and urged them to forge real partnerships with young people.

He believes engaging youth and utilizing their skills is the most effective way to create community change. He has personal experience working with groups of young people and their allies to help them influence policy, advocate for social change, and summon the courage to act consciously from their core principles. He understands that nourishing youth-adult partnerships creates powerful tools for change.

We heard him talk a lot during his presentation about “being a bit radical” and “stepping outside your comfort zone.” But for Wrangham, these aren’t just soundbites. He offered examples for coalitions and other groups, such as recruiting youth from unexpected places, involving youth in strategic planning and organizational decision-making, and knowing how to recruit new young people as others “age out” of our coalitions.

It is clear from the conversation and audience questions that many of our partners and allies are working with youth to some degree, but haven’t yet unlocked the full potential of the youth in their communities. For those interested in learning more about working with youth, Texans Standing Tall created a Community Engagement Guide as a tool to help coalitions more effectively engage youth in their local prevention efforts. To learn more about this guide, or to receive training on adult-youth partnerships in prevention, contact Sedrick Ntwali, Youth Engagement Specialist at (512) 442-7501 or sntwali@texansstandingtall.org.


Summit Roundup

We are grateful to everyone who led a breakout session and contributed to lively discussions during our 2018 Statewide Summit. Thank you to those who made this our most successful Summit yet! We’ll see you next year!

Below is a rundown of the panels you may have missed. And, be sure to scroll to the bottom of the post to see some photos from the event!

Reducing Risky Alcohol Use on College Campuses: The SBI Experience

Amanda Drum | Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
Mayra Hernandez | Texas A&M University – International
Debra Murphy | Huston-Tillotson University
Melissa Sutherland | San Antonio College
Tammy Peck (Moderator) | Texans Standing Tall

Oftentimes, schools are interested in improving the campus experience for college students through their prevention efforts, but may be short on funds to provide the desired programming. During this session, participants learned about Screening and Brief Intervention (SBI) as a proven way to reduce risky drinking and its associated consequences on college campuses. They also heard from current and past SBI campus partners, then learned ways to implement SBI as a primary prevention tool and engage stakeholders in the implementation process without having to spend tons of money.

Coalition Building

Kaleigh Becker | Texans Standing Tall

During this breakout session, participants had an opportunity to engage in a conversation around building and sustaining successful coalitions. This interactive session focused on recruiting dedicated coalition members, organizing effective meetings and engaging coalition members.

Advocacy 101: Use Your Voice to Shift the Dynamics of Power

Sachin Kamble | Texans Standing Tall

During this breakout session, participants learned about the basic skills needed to become an effective advocate. The presentation included a discussion on the importance of advocacy and the role it plays in shifting power dynamics, the different types of power and influence people have, and critical steps advocates must take to have their voices heard and create community change.

Alcohol & College Life: Perspectives from Students

Adam Concha, Amy Tang, Katy Turner | Youth Leadership Council

TST’s own Youth Leadership Council led this standing-room-only breakout session discussing the pressures college students face when experiencing the “college life.” Alcohol use rates are high among Texas college students. Being a first-year college student, participating in the Greek system, or being a college athlete puts individuals at higher risk for alcohol use. During this session, the YLC shared their perspectives on college life and engaged attendees in an informative discussion on how to enhance their college alcohol use prevention efforts.

Data Download: Effectively Communicating the Problem

Kaleigh Becker | Texans Standing Tall

During this breakout session, participants learned more about the scope of the youth substance use problem in Texas. The examined key data points related to alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs, and tobacco. In addition, participants had an opportunity to create their own infographic using an online design platform!

Excise Tax Resources & Next Steps

Nicole Holt | Texans Standing Tall

What’s going on with alcohol excise taxes? What does the 2019 legislative session hold for this important, highly effective environmental prevention strategy? Our CEO Nicole Holt discussed the challenges and opportunities for excise taxes in the upcoming year, including the anticipated budget deficit and how alcohol excise taxes can enter the conversation as a viable solution to help address the state’s fiscal needs. 

Risky Youth Behavior & Tools to Address It

AJ Cortez, Samantha De la Rosa, Andrea Marquez | Youth Leadership Council

There is an abundance of research and information that captures the risky behaviors that occur as a result of underage drinking. This issue is a priority to families across Texas. During this breakout session, TST’s Youth Leadership Council shared some of the current problems associated with underage drinking and prevention strategies to address them. They also discussed how to use TST’s Community Engagement Guide to effectively engage youth in local prevention efforts.

Alcohol Outlet Density

Michael Sparks | Sparks Initiatives

Did you know that the number of alcohol outlets in a neighborhood has a negative impact on individual and community determinants of health? Michael Sparks, alcohol policy expert, led participants through the basics of outlet density during this session: what alcohol outlet density is and the role it plays in public health and safety. Based on information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this session provided information coalitions need to 1) identify the number of outlets in communities, and 2) engage in discussions about addressing alcohol outlet density in their communities.

College Campus Prevention: Tools & Resources

Tammy Peck | Texans Standing Tall

Excessive alcohol use among students continues to be a problem for college campuses. During this session, participants learned about ways they can review and enhance their prevention efforts with limited resources (both time and money). Participants also learned more about the data from Texans Standing Tall’s most recent Higher Education Report and how they can apply this information to their work with/at colleges and universities. Additionally, TST demonstrated the online college policy tool it is building to help schools, parents, students, and community members learn more about the effectiveness of different campus alcohol policies.

The 3-Tier System & Public Health (Continuing the Conversation)

Pam Erickson | Public Action Management, PLC
Ed Swedberg | Board of Directors, Texans Standing Tall

During this presentation, attendees had the opportunity to dig deeper into the ramifications of attempts to dismantle the 3-Tier System (3TS) of Alcohol Distribution. Participants engaged with experts Pam Erickson and Ed Swedberg on what is happening at the national, state, and local levels surrounding the 3TS. Topics included how permitters and permittees can use the system to benefit alcohol distributers and increased sales with little thought to public health, how impaired driving rates and underage drinking are affected by the enforcement of the 3TS, and issues presented by online delivery services.

Addressing Marijuana Legalization in Texas

Kaleigh Becker | Texans Standing Tall
Michael Sparks | Sparks Initiatives

During this breakout session, participants had an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation about 1) marijuana legislation in Texas, 2) other states’ experience with expanded marijuana policies, and 3) the public health, social, and economic implications of expanded marijuana policies. In addition, participants determined the next steps for the Marijuana Workgroup.

Powdered Alcohol: A Bad Mix for Texas

Sachin Kamble | Texans Standing Tall

During this session, TST’s Sachin Kamble discussed where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed with powdered alcohol. The presentation covered what powdered alcohol is, why were concerned about it making its way to the marketplace, and previous legislative action related to powdered alcohol in Texas. It also included thoughts on powdered alcohol and the upcoming legislative session.

Social Media Advocacy: Building Your Coalition and Strategy Base

Laura Hoke | Laura Hoke Public Relations
Steve Ross | Texans Standing Tall

Social media is an essential tool for your community advocacy efforts. During this breakout, participants learned tips from public relations and communications expert Laura Hoke to increase, engage, and maintain your social media audience. The session reviewed how to use social media to communicate your message, how to reach your target audience, and how to interpret the analytics to gauge if the messaging is effective.

Bummed you missed any of these great breakout sessions? Never fear, TST training is here! Contact us at tst@texansstandingtall.org or 512.442.7501 to learn more about the trainings TST has to offer on any of the topics listed above, plus many others.

Youth Leadership Council (YLC) members with TST’s Youth Engagement Specialist, Sedrick Ntwali, getting ready to start Day 1 of Summit.Nigel Wrangham delivering his opening keynote presentation. TST CEO Nicole Holt during her excise tax breakout session.YLC members Lauren Oliver, Amy Tang, Katy Turner, Adam Concha, and Emily Hottman with Georgianne Crowell, TST’s Director of Community Outreach and Education, and Maria Caldera Morales, their YLC sponsor and Community Coalition Partnerships Grant Coordinator at The Coalition.TST’s Peer Policy Fellow, Sachin Kamble, and Youth Engagement Specialist, Sedrick Ntwali.The H2i Coalition Team from Odessa.YLC Members  AJ Cortez, Andrea Marquez, Nathaniel Fomby, and Jesus Cabrales.TST’s Nicole Holt with Pam Erickson and TST Board Member Ed Swedberg, who spoke about the Three-Tier System. Day 1 Breakout Sessions.MADD Victim Advocates Dani Simien and Kathy Hernandez during their breakout session on becoming advocates.  Amber Newby and Kathleen Armstrong Staas from the Blanco Coalition of Awareness, Prevention, and Treatment of Substance Abuse (CoAPT).Our friends from the RED Program with advocates Dani Simien and Kathy Hernandez. Day 2 Breakout Sessions.

Do you have Summit pictures to share? Be sure to post them on our Facebook page  or send them to us at tst@texansstandingtall.org!




Summit is one month away – you should attend!

In a few short weeks, Texans Standing Tall will be hosting our annual Statewide Summit to create healthier and safer communities.

These two days are a huge opportunity to bring together partners, experts, and youth for in-person collaboration and information sharing. Subjects range from the link between alcohol and breast cancer to a discussion on youth substance abuse and its relationship to the justice system.

We encourage everyone to sign up for this special event because we think it’s a great way to bring people together to create positive community change. And, as much as we love our Summit and want to tell you all about it, we think past attendees are a better way to hear about the Summit experience:

The Summit was well organized and provided a unique learning experience to attendees by allowing their participation in breakout sessions. The guest speaker presentations were interesting and provided useful information for attendees. The youth coalition members did a great job on their involvement as co-host and presenters at the Summit.
-Sipriano Gutierrez, Coalition Coordinator, Hockley County VOICES Coalition 

“When I attend any conference or Summit, I do so with the intention of receiving information about prevention opportunities that will help me mentor the youth in my community.  This particular Summit intrigues me because I am able to mentor others while highlighting the great work of many coalitions across our State.  The networking opportunities are endless.”
-Sylvia Garcia, Law Enforcement Instructor, CCTE, EPISD

If you still aren’t sure whether you should attend, check out our full Summit agenda here. There’s time left to register (and you or someone you know may even be eligible for a scholarship)!

We hope to see you in Austin next month!