In my four years as a member of Texans Standing Tall’s Youth Leadership Council (YLC), I have grown as a person in ways I never expected. I developed leadership skills, gained experience with public speaking, and acquired the tools necessary to become an outspoken advocate in my community. I gained all of this and more because the YLC pushed me to reach my potential and become an active and engaged citizen.
Adults in my community were very supportive of me and Texans Standing Tall’s vision to prevent young people from using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Through my presentations at TST’s annual Statewide Summit and other events like the Texas Interdisciplinary Addiction Institute (TXIA), I was able to network with fellow El Pasoans, which opened the door to new opportunities. I was able to work with U In the Driver seat at my university, and I was asked to help give a presentation at Aliviane, one of the local coalitions in El Paso. The support from these organizations back at home helped give me the drive I needed – and the hope that we could indeed reduce drinking and other drug use among youth.
Today, in my new role as the youngest board member for Texans Standing Tall, I will continue to push myself and remain an active member of my community.
But I also have a new goal for myself: to do more to encourage adults to become involved in Texans Standing Tall and the Youth Leadership Council.
How can adults help youth like me? They can start by encouraging up-and-coming leaders.
Teenagers don’t necessarily feel like they have the potential to make an impact in their community. An adult who believes in them, encourages them to fight for what they think is right, and helps them embrace their hidden potential can make all the difference in our pursuit of leadership roles. Some are born leaders, but others are made leaders. Adults can help young people become future leaders by pushing us beyond what we think we are capable of.
Some concrete suggestions for how to lift up young leaders:
Take the time to learn more about any organization they care about or are involved in. This means asking questions as well as doing some of your own research, from looking at websites to engaging on social media pages.
Attend a meeting with them, if you’re allowed. (It doesn’t hurt to ask!)
If you can’t attend a meeting, give them a ride. This lets them know you support them and are prioritizing their involvement.
Talk to other adults about the organization(s) your child or young friend is involved in. Spreading the word about their work through conversations can inspire other adults to talk to their kids about becoming active in an organization.
Make an investment in the organization your young leader is involved in. This could come in the form of a monetary donation or volunteering for an event.
In my new role on the board of directors, I pledge to engage adults in El Paso and beyond; to encourage them to get involved in the work young people are doing to build safe and drug-free communities. Our generation can’t do this alone – creating a safe and drug-free Texas is going to require collaboration between young people and the adults in our lives.
As a board member at Texans Standing Tall, I know my role is more important than ever before. I have to represent this organization beyond my El Paso community and serve as an embodiment of what it stands for. I look forward to continuing the work I do for a vision and mission I love and believe in.
Our Youth Leadership Council (YLC) provides a platform for young activists who believe in our mission and want to be a part of building healthier, safer communities. Every year, we welcome a mix of returning and new members who want to work with our staff to make sure alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs have no place in the lives of youth.
Oftentimes, youth who join the Youth Leadership Council are already working hard to make a positive difference in their local communities. Every year, YLC members further hone their leadership skills by attending two skills-building trainings, TST’s Statewide Summit, and monthly conference calls. In addition to those activities, members also get the chance to further engage in prevention work. As members of the YLC, youth strengthen their critical thinking skills and enhance their ability to advocate for community change. Because of the training and support they receive, youth often re-apply to the YLC and serve multiple years as members. During their time with TST, new doors open – and new opportunities for them to shine are created.
Each year, TST selects at least two youth to attend the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) Mid-Year Training Institute with TST staff. At the conference, YLC members participate in CADCA’s 4-day Youth Leadership Training, where they are able to connect with and learn from other youth who are working on similar prevention issues around the country.
In 2016, YLC co-chair Andrea Marquez attended the CADCA training with TST for the first time. Inspired by her experience, she applied to be a part of CADCA’s Youth Leadership initiative and has since become a trainer for the program, where she’s helping the next wave of young leaders become passionate about prevention. But that’s not the only area where Andrea has put her leadership skills to use. In addition to her work with CADCA, Andrea is involved in several other community service organizations and has presented on the issue of youth engagement in prevention work at multiple national conferences. Continuing on her remarkable path of public service, Andrea will soon start her freshman year at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA, where she’ll major in political science. (Watch the video below to hear Andrea’s speech about youth empowerment and prevention at CADCA’s 19th Annual Drug-Free Kids Campaign Awards Dinner.)
Last Thursday, our very own Youth Leadership Council Member, Andrea Marquez, spoke at CADCA's 19th Annual Drug-Free Kids Campaign Awards Dinner. Andrea shared her passion for youth empowerment as well as her involvement with prevention efforts in her community in partnership with Texans Standing Tall. Congrats Andrea!
Youth Leadership Council co-chair Katy Turner has also demonstrated stellar leadership skills in her time as a YLC member. Her passion for youth alcohol and other drug prevention shines through in her work with the YLC and other community organizations to which she dedicates her time. In addition to presenting with TST on effective youth engagement at national conferences like CADCA Mid-Year Training Institute and the 18th National Alcohol Policy Conference (AP18), she was one of three YLC members who received a Traffic Safety Scholarship for the Lifesavers National Conference. An incoming junior at the University of Houston, Katy also served on the Board of Directors for the local prevention coalition in her home town of Lufkin, TX.
Along with Katy, second-year YLC member Nikolai Petty and fourth-year YLC member Jesus Cabrales, received Traffic Safety Scholarships to the Lifesavers Conference. The conference was particularly eye-opening for Nikolai since he hopes to become a police chief of a major Texas city one day. Attending Lifesavers not only allowed him to receive educational training alongside current law enforcement officers, but further strengthened his resolve to join their ranks once he’s completed his studies at El Paso Community College.
For Jesus, who also hopes to work in law enforcement or run for public office one day, the conference was a great way to gain exposure to the many opportunities available in the worlds of prevention and public safety. In addition to attending Lifesavers, Jesus, an incoming senior at the University of Texas at El Paso, is involved in his local church and advocacy organizations and has co-presented with TST staff at the Texas Interdisciplinary Addiction (TXIA) Institute in San Antonio. Stepping further into his role as a young leader, Jesus recently joined the TST Board of Directors, where he will use his voice to help guide TST’s prevention efforts in Texas.
Outside of conferences, YLC members are often found doing amazing work in their very own backyards. 5-year Youth Leadership Council member A.J. Cortez joined the YLC to work on changing people’s perception of alcohol in his community. Having joined the YLC at age 15 – a rare occurrence for the group – he has experienced tremendous growth both inside and outside of the YLC. The skills he’s gained over the years have helped him take on even more leadership roles when he started his undergraduate studies at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX. Now a senior majoring in social work, he is a mentor for the Leadership Initiative for Freshman Excellence, a Resident Assistant, and a member of the Worden Social Work Organization. He’s also a 2-time recipient of the President’s Volunteer Service Award for his work serving Texas communities.
Nathaniel Fomby is another long-standing YLC member whose skills and commitment to public service have been honed during his time on the council. An incoming senior at Concordia University, Nathaniel joined the YLC four years ago because of his interest in the effects of alcohol and public policy. He has spent this summer serving as the Youth Engagement Intern for TST. In this role, he has been able to directly apply his academic interests while also gaining professional experience. In just a few short months, Nathaniel has assisted with the development of webinars, activities and presentations focused youth engagement. He has also helped identify content for TST’s website as well as supported the organization’s day-to-day operations by participating in staff meetings and keeping educational materials updated and organized.
We strongly believe that the Youth Leadership Council helps open doors and inspire youth to fully embrace the power they have to create positive change. These young leaders have advocated to lawmakers, spoken to rooms full of experts, and tackled local prevention work in their hometowns and communities. We are proud of their individual accomplishments and what they mean, collectively, for the future of Texas.
Are you interested in becoming a part of the Youth Leadership Council or do you know a young leader who might be? Applications are open until September 15th! Click here to apply.
When Texans Standing Tall brags about how wonderful our Youth Leadership Council members are, it’s always genuine!
To kick off 2017, we are recognizing Andrea Marquez as January’s YLC member of the month. Andrea was selected out of hundreds of applicants across the country to join Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s (CADCA) National Youth Leadership Initiative (NYLI). She is currently in the Train the Trainer program, a program that prepares the next generation of leaders to empower other young people to take action around drug use prevention.
“When I went to the Mid-Year Training Conference, I became aware of the problems communities throughout the United States face, and I realized I wanted to do something about it. I saw the impact youth had in their own communities and I was compelled to have the same kind of impact. I noticed how dedicated the NYLI members were and I decided to apply,” Andrea said.
The Train the Trainer program consists of five phases. Andrea completed the second phase of the training on January 16, which required her to travel to Arlington, Virginia. In phases three, four and five, she will go to the CADCA National Leadership Forum and Mid-Year Training as a “trainer in training” where a trainer will guide her through the conferences, The fourth phase will be participating in conference and video calls, and in the fifth phase she will graduate. Once she graduates, she will officially be a CADCA NYLI Trainer.
“I hope to gain more knowledge and awareness about drug-use in different communities throughout the United States. I also hope to obtain more information about the effects drugs have on communities,” Andrea said.
Andrea attended CADCA’s Mid-Year Training in July 2016 as part of Texans Standing Tall’s Youth Leadership Council. After seeing the NYLI members in action, Andrea was inspired to expand her statewide leadership role to a national one by getting involved in the program.
“I met many members of the NYLI and I saw how passionate they were about the things they were doing. I realized that I was passionate about these issues too,” she said.
Andrea hopes to use the leadership skills she develops to make an impact in the lives of the less privileged in this world. She recognizes how discrimination and a lack of care can affect the distribution of alcohol and the level of damage it does to communities.
“I hope to become a voice for those without one, and I aspire to end the inequality so many people face. I want to become an advocate and stand up for the little guy, the minority. Joining the National Youth Leadership Initiative will help me better understand why drug-abuse is a problem throughout the nation, and I hope that this knowledge will help me reach my goals,” she said.