Youth Engagement Strategies and Support (YESS)
Youth Engagement Strategies and Support (YESS) seeks to apply best practices for youth engagement to adolescent substance use prevention and early intervention programs. The approach reasons that young people know which approaches and messaging will be most effective for their own age groups. Programs must involve a diverse pool of young adults that represents the local community and can speak to its needs, without resorting to tokenism. Recruited adolescents may serve on independent youth councils or advisory boards. They may also be trained in peer-to-peer outreach, taking advantage of the way that young adults quickly establish trust and build rapport with one another. Strong youth engagement programs have advantages for both young people and adults, including community development, risk reduction, social inclusion, and shared decision-making. Prevention programs that incorporate both perspectives benefit from authenticity, insight, innovation, and a broader skillset. Recruiting youth participants may be a challenge, since programs must work within the boundaries of parental consent and school or extracurricular commitments.