Partnership with SYHS strives to empower youth to lead drug-free lives

Staff Report

Santa Ynez Valley People Helping People (PHP) launched a youth prevention and peer education group through Pirate’s Cove in partnership with Santa Ynez Valley Union High School. The group is known as “Cove Champions” and officially launched during Red Ribbon Week 2021.

The program is funded through a competitive grant from Santa Barbara County Behavioral Wellness to address the rising use of marijuana amongst youth in our county and strives to empower youth to lead drug-free lives through awareness, education and engagement.

Maggie Johnson, youth programs director and Marisela De La Cruz, youth program specialist, have selected and trained students to serve as the inaugural cohort of peer educators, including Ruby Carillo, Violeta Alcala, Alexis Mollo, Casandra Lopez, Lily Martinez, Lizbeth Ortiz Aguilera, Elizabeth Vergara, Estrella Nolazco, Mya Alvarado and Ampelia Lopez. More students are encouraged to participate with this ongoing program.

PHP together with Santa Ynez Valley Youth Coalition have partnered with local schools and organizations to reignite the Red Ribbon Week observance, after the pandemic shuttered 2020 activities.

From Oct. 25-29, various activities were scheduled at Valley schools, including presentations, raffles, dance lessons, theme days, education, and culminated with an assembly for Santa Ynez High School and Refugio High School students featuring “Rising Scholars,” a support program off of Hancock’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS).

“The speakers are formerly incarcerated students who are now striving to create strong pathways to educational achievement and serve as mentors for youth to persist through challenges,” Johnson said, describing the special presentations. “They highlight the importance of making healthy choices and building positive relationships with their community. We believe this important message will resonate with all students and teachers,”