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Hi there! My name is Audrey Horning. I am 17 years old and a senior at TMCC high school. I am also a member of the Speak Out program through Join Together Northern Nevada. I have been with Speak out for almost a year now! In this program, myself and other high school students go around to elementary schools and inform the kids of the different drugs in our community (in an appropriate way of course) and how to make the right decisions when facing them.

During the month of June, I was invited by JTNN to travel to the Community Anti-drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) in Indianapolis, Indiana. My job was to go to this event and learn new ways not only to help my community, but also to improve my coalition. As a youth, I was able to participate in another alliance called National Youth Leadership Initiative. NYLI is directed towards youth, and gave us techniques and steps to become strong leaders while bettering our coalitions, and then our communities. When my advisor first told me about the trip, I was a little nervous about leaving my family and traveling across the United States to the Mid-West. However, as the date grew closer and closer, my excitement grew as well! On August 2, my advisor and I took two flights to reach Indianapolis. Once we got there, we were both exhausted. We saw the register table and got our badges and official CADCA bags. That night there was a “Welcoming Dinner” to kick off the conference. General Arthur T. Dean, the CEO and chairman of CADCA, spoke to everyone about what to expect and hoped that we would all learn something new to take back to our hometowns. After the small welcoming ceremony, my advisor and I checked into our hotel and parted ways for the night.

The next four days were definitely an experience. Everyday breakfast was served and then everyone would go to the different sessions. One awesome thing that happened was when my advisor, Nadia and I got called out by one of the speakers. She was talking about raising the prices of cigarettes, and Nevada is the only state that currently has that! She asked if anyone was here from Nevada and I let out a big “Woo-Hoo!” it was pretty embarrassing now that I think about it. Nadia and I were the only ones that stood up! After that painfully embarrassing moment, we started the NYLI sessions. The thing with NYLI is that they have “Youth Trainers” who are basically young adults that were previously a part of NYLI as youth. Every single one of them were kind, energetic and knew exactly how to keep CADCA interesting for teens. The days consisted of tips and tricks to bettering the community and improving coalitions. They taught us different steps that we have to take to first identify a problem that our town is having and how to tackle it, called Cultural Competence and sustainability. 1- Assessment 2-Capacity 3-Planning 4-Implementation and 5-Evaluation. One of the most important thing that I learned is “Change requires a leader”. No society can function without a leader, so that is what our society will need to fix some of the problems. The trainers also broke all the teens up into breakout groups where we identified a problem that our town has and what steps we were/are going to take to get rid of that issue. NYLI gave me some amazing reasons to keep doing what I am doing. Even though, as small as Reno is, and how I am one person out of 300,000, NYLI has proven to me that I can change my community and make it safer for the next generations to come.

My overall experience with CADCA and the NYLI was simply amazing. Not only because I learned so much through the conference but I also had the opportunity to explore a completely new place. I cannot thank JTNN and the Speak Out program for sending me across the United States to really see from a new point of view. As happy as I was to get home to my family, I loved learning from the awesome people and coordinators at CADCA, and also being in a completely new place and environment.