Exceptional. That is how Autumn Lightner, 20, describes the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s (ABC) Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP) teen leadership conference. This is the fourth year the Staunton native and Liberty University student has participated in the YADAPP conference, but the first time as an intern, the top leadership role.
YADAPP is a youth-led program that empowers teens to become involved in keeping their communities alcohol and drug free. Hundreds of motivated high school students gather annually at this event, which features engaging workshops and presentations. In addition, participants discuss issues teens face in school and create customized Strategies to Act Now (STAN) Plans to deter high-risk behaviors. The students then implement these plans during the 2014-15 school year.
High school students who attend YADAPP have the opportunity to network with young leaders who have participated in previous conferences, like Lightner. She is one of only five college students who make up the group of interns who started as YADAPP attendees and worked their way up to become conference leaders. Interns are selected the year prior to the conference and start planning nine months before the event. This year’s conference takes place July 14-18 at Longwood University in Farmville.
“YADAPP interns are involved in every aspect of the event,” said Virginia ABC Education and Prevention Manager Katie Weaks. “From planning the conference agenda to helping train youth leaders and from preparing materials to coordinating activities, interns are vital to making YADAPP happen each year. The interns gain marketing, logistics management, budgeting and public speaking experience while honing their leadership skills. They empower, motivate and inspire high school students to spread a message of prevention at their school and in their community.”
“YADAPP has given me confidence and made me into a better person,” Lightner says. “If I were trying to encourage a high schooler to come to YADAPP for the first time, I’d tell them that this camp is life-changing. It really will change your life forever. It’s exceptional!”
YADAPP teams are made up of four high school students and one adult sponsor. Students may be rising ninth through twelfth graders. The adult sponsor may be affiliated with a high school (guidance counselor, teacher, resource officer), involved with a community group (parks and recreation, teen council) or belong to a faith-based organization (youth group leader).
Early enrollment costs $300 per team until April 30. The price then increases to $400 per team until the June 20 enrollment deadline. The fee includes room and board at Longwood University and all workshops that are part of the five-day conference. Online enrollment is available at www.yadapp.com.
Since its inception 30 years ago, more than 10,000 students from 440 Virginia high schools and community organizations have participated in a YADAPP event.
“The high school students appreciate hearing from former YADAPP participants who have gone onto college and are still committed to not drinking until they are 21 and who understand what drinking responsibly means when they are of age,” Weaks said. “I have known this group of interns for five years. I look forward to seeing how the knowledge they have gained from college classes and experiences will play into the education they impart and impact they have on the younger teens who attend.”
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is a major source of revenue for the commonwealth, contributing more than $1.7 billion to the general fund in the last five years. The agency currently operates 346 state stores. Its Bureau of Law Enforcement oversees more than 16,000 ABC licensed establishments while the Hearings and Appeals Division considers more than 700 cases each year. The agency also provides alcohol education and prevention programs for people of all ages. Now in its 80th year, ABC remains committed to progress and innovation in carrying out its control, service and revenue mission.
Staunton Teen Serves in Leadership Role for Student-Led Summer Conference