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Poster campaign addresses youth misperceptions



POSTER POINTERS: Posters such as these aim at encouraging county kids to confront substance abuse and its underlying causes.

Lyle and Klickitat schools are neighbors connected by a short stretch of highway, a wild river, and kids who are bursting with potential.

Teens Against Drug and Alcohol Abuse (TADAA!), the youth workgroup for the Klickitat & Lyle Against Substance Abuse Coalition (KLASAC), is a case in point. The group's long-term focus is on challenging both young people and adults to confront substance abuse and its underlying causes, while their current campaign invites the community to celebrate the strengths of its young people.

Finding positive things to do in a small town can be a challenge, which can make people vulnerable to drug or alcohol use, group members acknowledge.

However, says Rita Pinchot, Regional Prevention Coordinator, there's another problem in the community. Many people, both youth and adults, vastly inflate the rate of substance abuse among our young people. Data shows that, while young people and adults alike tend to think that most kids are using substances, in reality, most are not.

Looking for a way to address this crippling misperception, TADAA came up with a campaign consisting of a series of posters featuring students and positive statements they had about themselves. "We wanted to highlight the positive things that young people are doing and share that with the community," Pinchot added.

"This is more about how students perceive each other and how the adults in the community perceive kids," Pinchot explained, adding that, "in general many of our young people do struggle with negative self-views." This can create a vicious cycle of negative beliefs and behaviors. It's not limited to small towns like Lyle or Klickitat, she added. Young people everywhere are struggling with similar issues.

This change in messaging came about as a result of a team training on Positive Social Norms at the Montana Institute they participated in three years ago. TADAA! and KLASAC have gradually incorporated their learnings into coalition work. The poster project was conceived of last fall and, in May, posters were hung in Canyon Market, the Lyle Mercantile, the Sandbar, the Murdock Mini Mart and other community businesses. They'll remain on display through the summer.

The Positive Social Norms training has led to the organization shifting its overall framework to focus on the positive and finding hope while also addressing its concerns. "This is a first step in showing people what that actually can look like by working with young people to identify their individual and collective positive qualities and sharing them throughout the community," Pinchot explained.

What does the group hope viewers will take away after seeing the posters? "The positive exists and it's worth growing," Pinchot emphasized. "Lyle and Klickitat students are doing great things!"

The posters can be seen on the Lyle Community Schools Facebook page, @lyleschools.


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