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It's Your Business 2018: Upriver Youth Leadership Council: Kamiah Group forms to help kids find paths that avoid alcohol, drug use

Facebook photo
UYLC was host to a raft trip this summer for area participants. Three Rivers Rafting in Lowell guided the trip.

Facebook photo UYLC was host to a raft trip this summer for area participants. Three Rivers Rafting in Lowell guided the trip.

— A need for community level prevention started what is now a staple in youth development and mentoring in Kamiah.

The Upriver Youth Leadership Council (UYLC) was originally founded in 2006 as part of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program (SDFS).

This is when the community stepped up.

“Data collected in the 2004/05 annual Safe Schools/Healthy Students school-wide survey revealed that 34 percent of 8-year-olds in Kamiah had used tobacco, 21 percent had drunk alcohol, and 21 percent had smoked marijuana,” said UYLC president, Sharlene Johnson.


UYLC president Sharlene Johnson and Kamiah High School Principal Steve Higgins.

Johnson said this need was identified in the Kamiah Community Action Plan, Goal 6: The community has effective programs to eliminate substance abuse. This plan was adopted in 2006 by the City of Kamiah, Kamiah Chamber of Commerce, Kamiah School District, Idaho County Commissioners, Lewis County Commissioners, Kamiah Kiwanis, and the Nez Perce Tribe. Action 6.2: Form a Substance Abuse Coalition to plan, obtain funding, and implement a comprehensive substance abuse prevention and treatment program with measurable outcomes and tangible results was the premise on which the original coalition was founded. The goals were reflected in the organization mission statement: “Promoting Positive Change for a Healthy Community.”



413 Main Street

Kamiah, ID 83536

For organizational questions: Sharlene Johnson, UYLC president,

Call: 208-743-0392; e-mail; log onto:

“The focal goal of the coalition was to reduce and prevent substance use/abuse by youth in the community, while strengthening community collaboration and building a stronger coalition to sustain prevention efforts,” Johnson explained.

In 2008, founding members attended the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) Academy. Through this training and the dedication of its members, the coalition was awarded the CADCA’s Chairman Award in 2010. From 2008-2013 the coalition was able to realize organization and governance development, initiate proactive programs and partnerships, and achieve nationally acclaimed evidence-based successes.

In 2013, the coalition lost its two major funding sources, and the experienced executive director resigned.

“These losses led to a period of challenges, transition, mission fade, and diminished unfunded outputs. Remaining members were able to re-engage capacity and move forward with a renamed and reframed coalition - the Upriver Youth Leadership Council,” Johnson said.

The loss of a major funding source initiated the realization that there must be strengthened infrastructure, bylaws, and policies and procedures, as well as the development and implementation of sustainability strategies and actions to ensure the continued vitality of programs. The council has regained its capacity for substance use prevention and education in the community, continuing its role as an effective community change agent.


Facebook photo Water-balloon volleyball was another of the summer activities UYLC provided for kids, preteens and teens within the river communities.

UYLC is primarily a community driven organization with vast sector representation. UYLC partners recognize the need for a collaborative approach to health, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Establishing healthy behaviors during childhood is easier and more effective than trying to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood. To have the most positive impact on the health outcomes of young people, healthcare, law enforcement, school, media, churches, government entities, Nez Perce Tribe, youth serving organizations, business owners, civic organizations, youth and parents work together through a collaborative and comprehensive approach. In addition, UYLC employs two staff positions to help administer the objectives of the various grants.

UYLC’s mission is to “Empower youth and adults to build a healthier community through prevention leadership.”

Johnson emphasized UYLC is committed to building a strong, healthy community that offers youth positive alternatives to using drugs and alcohol.

UYLC has various funding streams that include local, state and federal grants. Most notably, 50 percent of the UYLC annual operating budget of $275,000 is obtained through community support.

UYLC engages in the following prevention activities:

•Create regular social opportunities for our youth in substance-free environments. We host a variety of events, such as game nights, crafts, and community service activities—providing a venue where kids can have fun free of peer pressure, families can bond, and we can all get to know each other.

•Guide the UYLC’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) as they help create positive substance-free experiences such as movie nights, dances, and dodgeball tournaments for their peers. YAB members—a mix of junior high and high school students—gain leadership experience and more confidence, and help fellow students understand that there’s no need to drink, smoke, or use drugs to have fun. All area youth are invited to attend the YAB’s general monthly meetings and join YAB festivities.

•Coordinate the Upriver Youth Safe Homes Network, a community of parents who pledge to help keep our kids substance-free. Safe Home parents make sure kids cannot access alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs in their home; check in with each other to verify kids’ plans; and talk regularly to their children about the risks of substance use and abuse.


Facebook photo Water-balloon volleyball was another of the summer activities UYLC provided for kids, preteens and teens within the river communities.

With nearly one in four Idaho high school students drinking, and one in three having used marijuana and/or prescription medications that were not prescribed to them, all this is done in an effort to showing kids that using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs negatively impacts the future.

“Academic achievement is lower among many students who binge drink or use marijuana. Drug abuse is related to suicide, early unwanted pregnancy, school failure, delinquency, and transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV,” Johnson said.

UYLC is working to foster leadership skills in the local youth; prevent them from using substances; and build a community-wide network of organizations and agencies to support prevention.

“Additionally, we aim to reduce substance abuse among adults by decreasing risk factors in our community,” Johnson said. “When we lose our youth to alcohol and drugs, we’re wasting amazing potential. Youth substance use and abuse keeps our children from achieving and weakens families and the community.”

UYLC accepts monetary donations as well as donations of food for its events.

“And our most valuable donation is your time and commitment to our cause,” Johnson stated. “If there is something you like to do or are an expert at, let us know and we can match your talent to a task we need done.”

Cash donations can be mailed to Upriver Youth Leadership Council P.O. Box 625 Kamiah ID 83536 or can be directly dropped off at the office, 413 Main Street, Kamiah.

Additionally, UYLC has a Paypal account Link:

Supporters can also attend UYLC’s next monthly meeting or event to learn more about what they do and how to participate. Monthly meetings are held at 7 a.m. on each fourth Wednesday at the UYLC office, 413 Main Street.

Office Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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