Radford native Walker Helms chooses not to drink and doesn’t mind letting classmates and friends know. It is something he has discovered comes easier after the past four years as a participant in the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s (ABC) Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP). Helms is more than ready to once more help guide others through the program that has had a profound impact on his life.
“I am a more assertive leader,” said Helms. “And I am more verbal about choosing not to drink.”
This year the Elon University student will participate in the young adult program as an intern, its top leadership role. The year-long, youth-led substance use prevention program is launched during a five-day conference held annually at Longwood University, which is set for July 17-21, 2017.
YADAPP empowers high school students to become involved in keeping their communities alcohol and drug free. Hundreds of motivated students gather annually at the five-day event, which features engaging workshops and presentations. Participants discuss issues young adults face in school and create customized Strategies to Act Now (STAN) Plans to deter alcohol and drug use. The students implement these plans during the following school year.
High school students who attend YADAPP have the opportunity to network with young leaders like Helms, who have participated in high school peer leadership substance use prevention through YADAPP. He is one of only four college students who make up the group of interns who began as YADAPP participants and worked their way through three levels of peer leadership to become conference leaders. Interns are selected the year prior to the conference and start planning nine months before the event.
The YADAPP interns’ responsibilities range from planning the conference agenda to helping train youth staff and from preparing materials to coordinating activities. “The interns build leadership skills and gain marketing, logistics management, budgeting and public speaking experience,” explained Virginia ABC Education and Prevention Manager Katie Weaks. “They provide inspiration to the younger students and motivate them to spread a message of prevention at their schools and in their communities.”
YADAPP teams are made up of four high school students and one adult sponsor. Student participants are rising ninth through twelfth graders. The adult sponsors are affiliated with a high school (guidance counselor, teacher, resource officer, coach), involved with a community group or belong to a faith-based organization.
Early enrollment, which opens March 1, costs $300 per team ($60 per person) until April 30. The price then increases to $400 per team until the July 1 enrollment deadline. The fee includes lodging and meals at Longwood University and all conference materials for four students and one adult for the entire week. Online enrollment will be available March 1 at www.yadapp.com.
Since its inception 33 years ago, YADAPP has impacted the lives of over 11,000 students throughout Virginia.
The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is a major source of revenue for the commonwealth, contributing more than $1.9 billion to the general fund in the last five years. The agency currently operates 364 state stores. Its Bureau of Law Enforcement oversees more than 17,000 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 marking its 83rd year, ABC remains committed to progress and innovation in carrying out its control, service and revenue mission.