BPAC graduates National Coalition Academy; Four from Burrillville attend drug prevention forum in D.C.

Blanchette, holding a certificate from the National Coalition Institute, stands with students Mary Chenot, Hannah Silvia and Kaitlyn Fleming.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Burrillville Prevention Action Coalition officially graduated this month from a national program focused on creating highly effective and sustainable drug and alcohol prevention organizations, a stamp of quality that helps to qualify the group for grant funding.

BPAC received the National Coalition Academy graduate certificate at the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America’s 2022 National Leadership conference, an annual event that attracts thousands of drug prevention advocates from across the country.

The forum, held at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland, includes four days of exhibitions and training sessions. Three 10th grade students from Burrillville attended the conference, accompanied by BPAC Coordinator Monica Blanchette; Mary Chenot, Hannah Silvia and Kaitlyn Fleming.

The group received a certificate that marks completion of a year-long program that included three weeks of intensive training, held virtually in 2021 due to COVID-19 precautions.

BPAC member Kristen Raimond joined Blanchette in completing the curriculum.

“The graduation was the big highlight for us,” Blanchette told NRI NOW of the trip, which took place from Sunday, Jan. 30 through Thursday, Feb. 3.

“The National Coalition Academy is a comprehensive training program developed by CADCA’s National Coalition Institute and teaches leaders ‘what they need to know’ – the core competencies – and ‘what their team needs to do’ – the essential processes – to establish or maintain a highly effective anti-drug coalition,” notes CADCA of the certificate.

To be considered for graduation, participating coalitions must submit five products at the end of the experience to be considered for graduation: a community assessment, a logic model, a strategic and action plan, an evaluation plan and a sustainability plan.

“You get recognized as a coalition that knows how to create strategies and initiatives, execute them and have them evaluated, which shows sustainability,” Blanchette explained.

The training, she noted, is required by the federal Office of Drug Control Policy, which oversees the Drug-Free Communities grants program, along with the Centers for Disease Control. Last year, BPAC was awarded a five-year $625,000 grant from the office, funding that will be used to maintain Burrillville-based prevention initiatives.

Blanchette said that the curriculum provided a good educational exercise for the pair on how to make BPAC’s programs successful.

“It would have been a good idea regardless of whether or not it was a requirement,” she said. “The one thing I really like about the exercise is we were teamed up with different leaders from across the country.”

The result, she noted, is that the prevention experts end up brainstorming ideas and sharing their experiences.

“There’s kind of a prevention collaboration that’s happening nationwide,” Blanchette said. “It was nice for the youth to be here to see and hear about all of the other coalitions nationwide who also graduated.”

But the graduation was just one piece of a larger adventure for the prevention-minded youth.

Students attending CADCA get the opportunity to work with specialist preventions and experts to enhance efforts in their own communities, while meeting and interacting with other coalition youth from across the nation. Featured speakers in 2022 included Dr. Amelia Arria, profession and associate chairperson of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, and former White House drug czars Jim Carroll and Dr. Robert DuPont.

It is the third time Burrillville has some type of representation at the event, and the second time in person. Blanchette went with student Samantha Mansolf in 2020, who at the time was a junior at Burrillville High School.

“We went to the conference and one month later, the world shut down,” Blanchette said of the event, which was held virtually in 2020.

This year, the students representing Burrillville had a relatively long history of advocacy, and had the trip funded with help from the Drug Free Communities Grant secured last year.

“They’ve been doing prevention with me since 6th grade,” Blanchette said of the youth.

And Blanchette said that after day one, Fleming pulled her aside and said she had written down some ideas, highlighting the importance of the mission.

“She had some really good ideas for what she wants to see happen in Burrillville,” Blanchette said. “That was really inspiring.”

“It does work,” the BPAC coordinator added of the conference.

The three students are expected to speak on the CADCA experience at BPAC’s next meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 9. The meeting will be held in-person at the Wallace F. Lees Public Safety Complex at 1477 Victory Highway and also via Zoom with Meeting ID: 814 3589 8854.

“I think they’ll have some talking points on the things they found interesting and how to better enhance the prevention coalition in Burrillville,” Blanchette said.

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