August 11, 2016
Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults
August 31, 2016

Montgomery, AL – The Council on Substance Abuse-NCADD (COSA-NCADD) hosted the Elmore County Youth Leadership Conference on Saturday August 20, 2016 at the Elmore County Courthouse. The conference was designed to empower middle school and high school students and provide them with an educational experience that will help to develop leadership skills.

Sebastian J. Goodson of the Exodus Foundation was the guest speaker for the event. He talked to students about making the right decisions and not being pressured to do wrong from their peers. The mission of the Exodus Foundation is to stop the flow of African-Americans to Prison through the one-on-one therapeutic friendships and support groups of the Red Sea Crossings Mentoring program.

After the guest speaker there were presentations given on various topics to include Underage Drinking, School Violence, Truancy, and HIV/STI Prevention.

Behavioral Health Prevention Specialist Antonio Edwards presented students with information on underage drinking. Students were able to learn the dangers of underage drinking by using Fatal Vision Goggles, which gives the illusion of being under the influence of alcohol.

Presenter Cynthia Dunning spoke about Juvenile Violence in the School Setting. “Sometimes we harass others and don’t know it” she said while discussing harassment, bullying, and fighting. Students were engaged and shared their experiences on how they overcame school violence. One student said that she writes fictional stories. Dunning also explained how substance abuse is also linked to school violence because it affects student behavior and triggers emotions such as anger, frustration, and rage.

Cynthia Dunning has been working for the Montgomery Public Schools for over 12 years. She is also a Licensed Missionary with the Church Of God Pentecostal Inc., where she has been a member for over 20 years.

COSA-NCADD Executive Director Shereda Finch and Becoming Whole Ministries Founder Kimberly McKinney presented information on Truancy. Ms. Finch began by explaining some of the reasons why students are truant which include relationships with teachers, school environment, family, low self- esteem, and drug and alcohol use. “Some students don’t like their teachers or they may be afraid to go to school” she said. “Some students have family conflicts or may feel as if they have no friends.”

Kimberly McKinney summed up the presentation with a focus on Truancy Prevention. “Do something that will keep you in school” she said while encouraging students to be peer leaders. McKinney said that Truancy Prevention requires responsibility, discipline, self- respect, and perseverance.

Behavioral Health Prevention Specialist Santavia Mann talked to students about HIV/STI Prevention. Students were able to learn how HIV and other STI’s are transmitted. Mann explained how substance abuse is linked to HIV. “Alcohol and drugs affect your ability to make good judgments and choices about safe sex” she shared.

The conference concluded with a special presentation from Wetumpka Police Officer B. Dailey. She shared her experiences with underage drinking and substance abuse and how she overcame being a victim. “Being an officer is the greatest accomplishment” she stated.

Several organizations participated in the Youth Leadership Conference. The Social Security Administration, Ameriplan Healthcare, New York Life Insurance, Help Me Grow, Auburn University of Montgomery, South University, Family Guidance Center, and Capital Area Adult Literacy Council set up information booths.

The conference was funded in part by the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Montgomery Area Foodbank and Councilman Percy Gill of Wetumpka. COSA-NCADD is already planning a bigger event next year, including additional workshops and agencies.

The mission of COSA-NCADD is to “reduce the incidence and prevalence of the disease of alcoholism, other drug addiction diseases, and related problems.” For more information call 334-262-1629 or visit

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