The Unique Power of SAY Youth Leaders

“I’ve known kids who you’d never think would use a substance, let alone be addicted, but I see it,” says Jack, a senior at Serra High School in Tierrasanta and a youth leader with SAY’s Club ELEVATED.

Today the products, issues, and hazards related to substance abuse prevention are changing rapidly. Despite an overall decline in youth use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, liquid nicotine, e-cigarettes, vaping, and easy access to marijuana have created a need for increased prevention and awareness.

Club ELEVATED trains and supports youth in substance abuse awareness and peer outreach for prevention. Like many teens, Jack could’ve simply kept his head down, ignoring the actions of those around him. Instead Jack realized he had an opportunity to guide his peers down a positive path. Along with more than 40 other SAY youth leaders, Jack regularly speaks at school assemblies, town halls, and youth leadership conferences, teaching peers, parents, concerned adults, law enforcement, and others about ways to prevent and reduce access to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Jack knows that attempting to shock a teen with statistics rarely works and that community-wide action is needed, including environmental and policy change. He sees results from helping his peers to consider potential repercussions. “I try to provide little nuggets of knowledge, because as kids we’re always thinking, and there’s going to be a time when a friend thinks about what I’ve said and ultimately makes the right choice,” he reflects.

“A lot of kids just follow the crowd or stand on the sidelines. But taking an active role really gives you a passion and a driving force. It’s cool to see a group of like-minded strong individuals, using our skills for something as great as Club ELEVATED and SAY San Diego,” says Jack.

SAY San Diego partners with youth and communities to empower those most affected to make changes in areas of their greatest concern. SAY has supported youth, like Jack, out in the community, leading prevention education, and informing policy change, for more than 20 years, ahead of what we often see in the news. Because our youth leaders connect with other young people, parents, and elected officials with expertise and firsthand experience, they are uniquely impactful in changing and saving lives.