Guest column: VIP program to improve community, challenge youth

Samantha To is the youth coordinator for Williams High School’s Vikings Inspiring Prevention program. (Submitted photo)

Samantha To is the youth coordinator for Williams High School’s Vikings Inspiring Prevention program. (Submitted photo)

Hello Williams and all nearby residents — I want to extend a thank-you for all of the fun we had at the Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Back to School Fair. It was lovely to meet all the students and parents, and exciting to see the amount of support the community has for one another.

As the youth coordinator for Williams High School’s Vikings Inspiring Prevention (VIP), I would like to take this opportunity to explain a little more about who we are and why we are here.

VIP is a youth-driven club incorporating health, law and criminal justice that meets weekly at Williams High School. VIP’s key goal is to help peers, friends and family create a healthier environment by providing an opportunity for students to learn about the use of policy to improve community health. Members are provided opportunities to hone leadership and professional skills, learn about the civic process and steps required to create policy change, and engage local leaders on these topics. Students participate in state-wide and national service days, as well as training and conferences conducted throughout the state. All activities are free of charge for youth participants.

By collaborating with entities such as the Coconino County Public Health Services District, Williams Justice Department, Williams Unified School District and other local agencies, VIP members have an opportunity to improve their community and gain experience that will open doors to college programs and careers.

There are over 30 similar successful coalitions across the state, including middle and high schools in Kingman, Cottonwood and Douglas, Arizona. With great community support, the coalitions have started conversations, formed bonds and worked with town and city councils to pass health-related policies. Some have even received state-wide recognition for their work. Policies created by students at Williams High School will have a lasting, positive influence on the overall health of the residents Williams and encourage a better place for future generations to reside. The effects on health will support more fit residents, encourage the local economy and continue to bring opportunity and outreach to students and parents.

As the school year commences, I look forward to meeting new, friendly faces of students and community members and working together to become a healthier community.

About the author

Samantha To is a Public Health Educator for the Coconino County Public Health Services District. She works as the youth coordinator for Williams High School’s Vikings Inspiring Prevention. She is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about public health issues and has experience partnering with community agencies to create and sustain public health programs.

Funding for Vikings Inspiring Prevention youth coalition is provided by the Arizona Department of Health Services, Bureau of Tobacco and Chronic Disease.

More information is available from To at sto@coconino.az.gov or (928) 679-7290, and be sure to like Vikings Inspiring Prevention on Facebook for more updates.

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