PROFILE: Making a difference
Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2022
Impact Prevention empowers local youth to tackle community issues
Since its inception seven years ago, Impact Prevention has been working with youth in Lawrence and Scioto counties to make a difference and tackle issues facing them.
“Our vision is to help people and help the community, promote positive mental health and prevent substance use and abuse,” Mollie Stevens, a prevention specialist who founded the agency with the late John Goodwin and serves as its CEO, said.
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Stevens has been in the field and working with youth since 1991.
Through Impact Prevention, a nonprofit agency located at 628 S. Ninth St. in Ironton, they have organized youth-led programs and youth empowerment activities, as well as offered life skills training in schools.
These have taken the form of an annual youth summit (the latest of which took place last week), a summer camp for local youth, team building with young people, Sources of Strength and Question, Persuade and Refer — two suicide prevention programs.
When asked how many people they been active with, Stevens said “it depends on the program.”
In the past year, they have worked with 76 adults in LifeSkills training, while they have engaged with more 3,500 students in local schools through the Red Ribbon Week drug abuse prevention campaign.
They have worked with 35 elementary school students in afterschool programs and 120 students in Lawrence County and 76 in Scioto County through youth-led programs. The agency also maintains a presence and works with all school districts in Lawrence County, including Tri-State STEM+M Early College High School and Collins Career Technical Center.
And through Question, Persuade and Refer, they have trained 150 teachers and the most of the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.
Impact Prevention has five full-time staff and one part-time member, and they say much of the work is made possible through the connections they have made in the community.
“We are really lucky to have a lot of partnerships with local entities and partnerships across the state,” Meagan Joseph, the agency’s program manager, said.
Those partners include the Voinovich School at Ohio University, Lawrence County Juvenile Court, Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services, the Adams Lawrence Scioto County ADAMHS Board, Prevention Action Alliance, the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation and the Pallottine Foundation.
“And we have worked with the Ironton Elks Lodge,” Joseph said, noting that they organized a suicide prevention concert, with proceeds going to the agency.
And it is through those partnerships that Impact Prevention has hosted its annual youth summit the past several years.
This year’s took place on Feb. 16, marking an in-person return from last year, when it took place virtually.
With almost 100 youth in attendance from Lawrence and Scioto counties, the aim is to teach them the skills to be more empowered to make a difference in heir communities.
As the youth learn about youth-led prevention in workshops and team-based activities from other youth, this allows them to have a voice in addressing emotional and behavioral health, as well as other critical life skills.
“Youth led is important, because youth will be responsible for all aspects of society one day,” Natalie Wilds, a senior member of the Southern Ohio Youth Council, said. “If youth to develop leadership skills now, society is guaranteed a bright future full of new ideas and impactful initiatives. Youth should be involved in community efforts today so, when it is our time to step forward, we will have the leadership skills, know the importance of helping others, and are empowered to make changes to ensure all voices will be heard.”
An example of the work done by youth-led programs is the suicide prevention walks, which have taken place the past few years.
Starting at the Lawrence County Courthouse, more than a hundred people have joined the procession to the Ohio River, where luminaries were launched in memory of those who lost their life to suicide.
Participants carry signs with messages, such as such as “You are worthy” and “You are not alone,” while inspirational messages were also written in chalk around the courthouse.
Last year, following the walk, the youth were invited to leave painted handprints on a section of the Ironton floodwall, as a temporary placeholder until a larger mural by the Youth Council is created.
Stevens said, over the course of her work with youth, she has seen many go onto be nurses, teachers and other key professions.
“And we have elected county officials who have been in our youth-led programs,” she said. “We’ve seen lots of young people grow into productive adult lives. I think it helps young people be more civically and minded and be more ready for job placement.”
She sums up the group and its mission.
“We’re just a family-oriented group of folks, trying to make a difference in the health and well being of the county.”
For more information about Impact Prevention, or for information about making a donation in support of the community youth, visit ImpactPrevention.org or Facebook.com/ImpactPrevention.