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HU Hosts Six-County Substance Abuse Prevention Youth Summit October 24

Photo of Adrian Lopez, Desiree Martínez, and Kayla DeVries.

Adrian Lopez of West Las Vegas High School, top left; Desiree Martínez of Highlands, bottom left; and Kayla DeVries of Robertson High School are three of the organizers for the Oct. 24 Youth Summit.

October 7, 2019

Las Vegas, N.M. – There will be a six-county Youth Summit focused on substance abuse prevention at New Mexico Highlands University Oct. 24 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the university’s John Wilson Complex at 1241 9th St.

“Together We Are Stronger” is the theme for the Youth Summit, which will include youth from San Miguel, Mora, Guadalupe, Colfax, Harding, and Quay counties.

“The primary goal of this Youth Summit is to educate, inspire and engage area youth to be part of the solution to the growing substance abuse epidemic and to be advocates for their own resiliency,” said Desiree Martínez, HU CARES prevention coordinator at Highlands. “I think it’s wonderful that local youth were such an important part of the planning process for the summit.”

Martínez said the mission statement developed for the Youth Summit includes:

  • Building a strong youth voice for substance abuse in culturally diverse communities.
  • Strengthening communication among youth-to-youth and youth-to-professionals.
  • Increasing youth engagement to be part of the solution.
  • Promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

“We’re excited that as of Oct. 7, more than 1,400 students are scheduled to attend. We expect that number to rise,” Martínez said.

Kayla DeVries, 16, a junior at Robertson High School, and Adrian Lopez, 16, a sophomore at West Las Vegas High School, are two of the student representatives for the Youth Summit. They were involved in the planning process for the summit.

“I hope that youth will see what other people have gone through with substance abuse, making them realize the danger and health risks. I don’t think kids are aware of the threat of street drugs,” DeVries said.

DeVries is active in the Dream Makers Health Career Program at Robertson and was chosen to be a peer health educator for drug use through a local grant.

“I want to help my community and get other kids involved in learning more about substance abuse,” DeVries said.

Lopez is a student representative for both the local DWI Board and Juvenile Justice Board.

“This Youth Summit is very important to me because I’ve lost family members and friends to substance abuse,” Lopez said. “I hope that the summit opens the eyes of youth about the epidemic of substance abuse. I want kids to come away with thoughts of how what you do with drugs affects everyone who cares about you. With drug abuse, you throw away your dreams and aspirations.”

The Youth Summit is open to all students in grades 6 through 12 from the six counties. A highlight of the program includes a presentation by Jim Wahlberg, executive director for the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, and a showing of the film “If Only.”

“This film, ‘If Only,’ is about teenage addiction and recovery that raises awareness of the dangers of experimenting with prescription drugs,” Martínez said.

Established in 2001, The Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation was created for the purpose of raising and distributing funds to youth service and enrichment programs.

The local Youth Summit program also includes general assembly presentations, testimony from youth peers, recognition of families who have lost loved ones to substance abuse, and live music.

The San Miguel County Substance Abuse Coalition is one of the lead organizers for the Youth Summit. Other collaborators include New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department; New Mexico Department of Health Public Health Office; New Mexico Division of Vocational Rehabilitation; and El Centro Family Health.

Funding for the Youth Summit comes from the New Mexico Public Education Department, DEA 360, and the New Mexico Health and Human Services Department.

The 35-member San Miguel County Substance Abuse Coalition was established in 2014 after Highlands received a New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention grant. Martínez coordinates the grant.

For more information about the Oct. 24 Youth Summit, contact Martínez at 505-454-3518 or desireemartinez@nmhu.edu.