Youth coalition director spent 14 years steering local youth away from substance abuse

By Pamela Dozois

Contributing Writer

After 14 years as the director of People Helping People’s Youth Substance Abuse Coalition, Mary Conway retired at the end of June to enjoy more time with her family. She gave her notice in April to allow time to recruit, hire and train the new director, Maggie Johnson. 

“It has been rewarding to see the high level of drug use among our local teens trending downward since 2008,” said Conway. “What I love about this position is that it is about community collaboration, bringing partners together to help our youth avoid the pitfalls of drug use. It truly takes the entire community to make this happen.”

“The Coalition spent the first five years of their federal grant to bring people to the table to take action since our valley had the highest rate of youth substance abuse compared to the average of school districts in the state of California and our own county school districts,” Conway explained. “I’m leaving this job as a profession but will continue to be involved in youth substance abuse prevention. I believe it is the answer to the health and well-being of our youth, families, and community. Substance abuse effects everybody.”

Conway worked for the Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA for 18 years, with its family, youth, and teen programs. That position propelled her into getting more deeply involved with at-risk youth. 

“I started volunteering on People Helping People’s Coalition as the representative for the YMCA,” Conway said. “When I realized the real depth of the substance use problem in the valley, I felt I needed to do more, and so I accepted the full-time position with PHP as the coalition director.” 

Conway’s passion she says, has always revolved around the well-being of the valley’s youth, which included volunteering with many local organizations. She prefers to work behind the scenes “just getting the job done.”

“Even though our local drug trend lines are continuing downward, there is still so much to be done,” she said. “I’m happy to be leaving this position in good hands with Maggie Johnson.”

In closing, Conway expressed how rewarding her position was.

“I feel so grateful for the privilege of working with so many of these great local organizations, especially the YMCA and PHP,” she said. “They are such wonderful organizations that make a difference in our community, not only for our youth but for everyone. There are also so many amazing people that I have been fortunate to have worked alongside of that have really made a difference in my life and the lives of others.”

Conway has been a valley resident for 43 years and has been married to Gary Conway for 51 years, while raising their three children Jennifer, Scott and Michael.