BLOG: Stark County Youth Led Prevention

Categories: Blog
YLP outside Ohio Statehouse

Did you know the majority of teens do not drink or use drugs? According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey » in the past 30 days, most high schools students did not drink (67%) and did not use marijuana (78%). Most teens have never tried illegal drugs (93%) and never used prescription drugs not prescribed to them (81%). This can be pretty surprising news to adults and young people alike. We unfortunately hear so much negativity about “kids these days” and that “everyone is doing it.” However, the rates of teen alcohol and drug use are at some of the lowest they have been in the 20+ years the survey has existed.

Stark County has known this and therefore created a program, Stark County Youth Led Prevention (formerly known as YOUth Choose), for middle and high school students. Members of Stark County Youth Led Prevention want to encourage their peers to make healthy decisions, such as not using drugs or alcohol, focusing on their mental health by lowering stress levels and preventing bullying. Research also shows that youth are more likely to relate to people their own age. As a result, we have found that peer-to-peer prevention is a great way to engage young people.

Youth-led prevention not only helps promote positive life decisions, but it also provides students with a unique opportunity to get involved and develop useful life skills. Youth involved with Stark County Youth Led Prevention (or SCYLP) have had the opportunity to develop skills (e.g., writing, public speaking, advocacy, working in groups and with adults to accomplish goals they set for themselves) that will equip them to be change agents. With youth-led prevention, young people are truly the guiding voice that make decisions. SCYLP has learned effective prevention strategies as well as developed and completed a strategic prevention framework map to guide their activities throughout the year.

Currently, youth are represented from three school districts in Stark County: East Canton, Lake and Perry; however, we are always looking for more students from all schools to get involved. Over the past year, students involved in SCYLP have:

  • Planned and delivered presentations to numerous community groups
  • Participated in trainings
  • Traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend a national conference and meet with legislators on the federal level to advocate for prevention
  • Attended prevention conferences with students from all over the country

SCYLP students also were an essential part of the success of the Crisis Text Line, which was recently expanded across Ohio »

The youth that are involved with SCYLP are extremely motivated and dedicated to the work. Many of the students have received recognition and awards for their work both locally and statewide. Max was a recipient of the LeaderSpark YIPPEE Award, Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Association of Ohio (ADAPAO) Prevention Visionary Award and 2016 StarkMHAR HOPE Award for Young Advocate of the Year ». Also this past year, Ivy was named to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Teen Ambassador Board ». And most recently, one of SCYLP youngest members, Greg, a freshman at East Canton, won the 2016 ADAPAO Youth Community Champion Award » for going above and beyond in his community.

In addition, many of the students involved with SCYLP are extremely involved with their schools through various extracurricular activities. Students have received state and national recognition for their involvement with these activities; however, this is not a requirement to be involved with SCYLP. All that is required to be active with SCYLP is to be a middle or high school student in Stark County, desire to make a positive impact in your school and community and a willingness to remain substance free.

For more information or to get involved, please contact Allison Esber at 330-455-6644 or or visit

About Allison Esber

Allison Esber serves as the Coalition and Community Development Coordinator at Stark County Mental Health & Addiction Recovery (StarkMHAR). She is the adult adviser for Stark County Youth Led Prevention and works to engage schools and the community in substance use prevention. Allison also serves as the Coordinator for the Stark County Suicide Prevention Coalition which strives to reduce suicide deaths in Stark County. Prior to her work at StarkMHAR, Allison had volunteered and worked on a 24-hour crisis hotline for nearly four years after completing a dual-bachelors degree in Psychology and Sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. She completed her Masters of Science in Social Administration from Case Western Reserve University in May 2015. Allison is a licensed social worker and a certified prevention specialist assistant. She is also an instructor for Youth Mental Health First Aid, QPR (Question. Persuade. Refer) and CALM-Counseling on Access to Lethal Means.