Roanoke Prevention Alliance Week

by J.D. Carlin

Resilience Week 2020 runs from May 3 – 9. As part of the Roanoke Prevention Alliance’s (RPA) role in helping children, youth and families build resilience in the City of Roanoke they are proud to support the Roanoke Youth Leadership Alliance (RYLA). The youth who make up the RYLA are middle school students who have come together to create positive change in their community. The RYLA is supported by RPA and Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare (BRBH) staff. All of the youth involved this year are 6th grade students, plus one 8th grader, and all attend Roanoke City Public Schools.

In the past, members have led a Social Norms Marketing Campaign, presented multiple times to Roanoke City Council, conducted surveys of alcohol retailers and completed a Sticker Shock campaign. This year’s members have focused on learning how they can be resilient and how they can help others to be resilient.

Like most of us right now, our youth leaders are homebound. They are keeping up with schoolwork, spending time with family and communicating with friends via technology. We thought it would be a good time to ask them how they were doing, and equally important, what they are doing to deal with the current situation they are forced to be in. We asked four of our youth leaders for their thoughts on what they are doing to be resilient and how being part of the RYLA has helped them develop some of their resiliency skills.

Initially, the youth leaders shared they are doing mostly the same types of things most people are doing, especially other middle school-aged youth.

Steven said, “video games never get old.” Josiah shared that his “family has been spending time together.” Emily is taking the opportunity to learn a new skill, riding a bicycle! In addition, Jasmara is taking time “being artistic and tapping into [her] creative side.”

As we talked more, however, the youth became more insightful and realized that “just being positive” was something they were in control of and that they had power to decide how they saw things. Moreover, they want to “keep my brain working” and get outside for “walks with mom to…see something different.”

When asked about their participation as members of the RYLA, it was fantastic to hear how much the youth feel they are affecting their hometown. Jasmara said her time with the RYLA has shown her how to be responsible and respect her community. In addition, she likes “helping people with their issue and the community in general.”

Steven said that he likes being part of the RYLA, “because I feel good. It feels like I am adding to my community.” Josiah shared that he has discovered, “It’s a good way to feel and know you’re spreading positivity. You’re helping other people to feel better.”

The thing is, as much as we can brag about our youth members, with good reason, we want to send the very important message that their families are no different from anyone else’s right now. All families can make the choice to be involved with each other, choose to be as positive as possible and do things that allow those positive feelings to shine. Do puzzles together, watch a movie as a family, have a pillow fight. Go for walks, remembering to talk while together, share your concerns, build trust and closeness. Almost all of us are now with the people we are closest to in the world. And while it may not seem like it, we have a great opportunity to strengthen those relationships, because we know that when we feel like we have people we can count on…we are all more resilient.