PRESTONSBURG – Approximately 300 students representing UNITE Clubs at 20 schools in the Big Sandy region completed the second phase of a new UNITE Youth Leadership Program Monday.

This was one of three regional programs to train middle and high school youth to be catalysts for helping their peers make positive life choices by demonstrating leadership skills within their home communities.

Conducted by Youth To Youth International, the objective is for participants to learn and practice the qualities and skills of great leaders, to be empowered to make good choices in life, and to develop strategies for making a positive impact among their peers in school and in their communities.

Youth trained during these workshops will be engaged in activities that foster personal growth, decision-making, and environmental change – ideas that can then be brought back and shared with their peers and community members.

During the first training, held January 25, students were introduced to concepts and strategies to make it easier for youth to be drug free. These included discussions on community norms, access and availability of drugs, use and impact of the media, and policy and enforcement of current laws.

In addition, UNITE Club members brainstormed activities that they wanted to work on in their own communities.

In the second phase, Youth to Youth participants – themselves high school juniors and seniors — presented skits and interactive discussion to reinforce leadership skills, understand challenges they will face, how to stand strong against these challenges, and learn ways to maintain energy as they work to make an impact in their communities.

It is easy for youth to feel safe and secure in their own little world, said Ty Sells, director of training for Youth To Youth. Unfortunately, in trying to be “cool” they may place themselves into bad situations – what’s cool is not always what’s best.

“Don’t sacrifice your future to be cool today,” Sells warned. “We can be made to think something really matters when it doesn’t matter at all.”

Founded in 1982 in Columbus, Ohio, Youth To Youth is a model community-based drug prevention and youth leadership program. Its many projects are aimed at harnessing the powerful influence of peer pressure, making it a positive force that encourages young people to live free of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

The UNITE Youth Leadership Program is being funded through a grant from the Walmart Foundation and the Kentucky Advisory Council State Giving Program.