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The Importance of Youth Voices

Youth voices are often overlooked. However, the children of today are the leaders of tomorrow and have valuable perspectives. The Westbrook Partners for Prevention (WPFP) coalition strives to empower youth and help elevate their voices for the issues that are important to them. Most recently, this included working alongside a small group of high school students to create prevention messaging and promote mental health, resiliency, and alternatives to substance use. WPFP participated in a summer youth employment program known as “Gateway to Opportunity.”

Gateway to Opportunity connects high school youth participants and a college-aged team leader to paid learning opportunities. The program is six weeks long and focuses on 21st Century skill-building. WPFP was one of eight host sites in Maine this past summer. The WPFP group learned about foundational public health concepts, substance use prevention and harm reduction strategies, team work, advertising/effective messaging, and social media content creation, to name a few. They were also connected to local career opportunities and learned about employment applications, resume and cover letter writing, and financial literacy.

We highly encourage you to talk with the young people in your lives whether it’s about challenges they’re facing, local community topics, substance use and recovery, or simply about the things they’re passionate about. These are incredibly valuable conversations which we will be continuing during the school year with our Youth Leadership Coalition students.

TIPS FROM OUR YOUTH GROUP

• Check in with us, even if it seems like we’re not listening.

• Grades aren’t always representative of someone’s intelligence or abilities.

• There’s a lot of stigma still in talking about substance use and mental health. Please listen when we do talk and don’t dismiss what we say.

• Be more open-minded and listen and participate in the things we like doing.

Janet Dosseva
Janet Dosseva
Janet loves implementing creative and innovative ways to engage communities in prevention and harm reduction strategies. She focuses on promoting health equity and amplifying youth voices. Janet really enjoys working in the Westbrook community, where so many people are committed to supporting youth through collaborative efforts to prevent and reduce youth substance use rates. She is also a member of the NAMI Maine Board of Directors, the Cumberland County District Public Health Council, Maine Public Health Association, Maine Prevention Certification Board, Westbrook-Gorham Rotary Club, and various Maine CDC substance use workgroups. Janet enjoys cooking, traveling, collecting new household plants, going to concerts, and playing and coaching tennis in her free time.

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