Virginia’s Signature Success

Educating Young People

The agency’s Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP) was one factor in winning this award. According to Katie Weaks, ABC Education & Prevention, their philosophy is that youth need a safe, alcohol- and drug-free environment to achieve personal success and build strong communities.

“As primary influences on their peers, high school students have the capacity to become positive role models and leaders in the ongoing effort to prevent substance use,” Weaks says. “Therefore, our mission is to develop youth peer leadership that fosters substance use prevention at the state and local levels.”

In 1984, a group of individuals from local communities and state government assembled to determine what Virginia could do about high school students’ use of alcohol and other drugs. The group agreed that youth need a safe and drug-free environment to achieve personal success and build strong communities, and that as primary influences on their peers, high school students have the capacity to become positive role models and leaders to prevent substance use. Thus, YADAPP was formed.

YADAPP is a year-long peer leadership program that begins each summer when high schools and community groups around Virginia send teams of four student participants and one adult sponsor to a four-day conference.

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“The objective of YADAPP is to broaden participants’ knowledge of substance use prevention and help them work as a team to create a plan for their school, to learn leadership skills needed to address common issues among their peers and to network and build supportive relationships with youth from across Virginia,” Weaks says.

Participants work all week long in groups with other schools to brainstorm the issues they are facing in their schools, hear speakers on topics that include alcohol and drug trends, strategic planning, media relations and fundraising. This information is then used to formulate a Strategies to Act Now (STAN) Plan.

“Participants take their STAN Plans back to their schools and communities to present them to principals and community leaders, and spend the year implementing their STAN Plan with the support of their adult sponsor,” Weaks says.

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Since its inception 31 years ago, more than 10,000 students from 440 Virginia high schools and community organizations have participated in YADAPP and returned home to implement alcohol and drug prevention programs in their communities.

“The ultimate goal is that every high school in Virginia will have a strategically planned and peer-led alcohol or drug prevention program in their school each year,” Weaks says. “We are working to accomplish this goal by ensuring the highest level of leadership training, development of the most effective STAN Plans possible and tracking the implementation successes and barriers of teams when they return to their schools and communities.”

Preventing Impaired Driving

Impairing driving is the leading cause of automobile deaths throughout the nation. Virginia ABC is making a concerted effort to educate, monitor and detect the over-service and underage consumption of alcoholic beverages at ABC-licensed, on-premise establishments in the Roanoke and Virginia Beach regions of the Commonwealth, while coordinating with local law enforcement’s sobriety checkpoints.

“Through this initiative we built stronger working relationships with local law enforcement partners and licensees by addressing establishments that might be over serving their patrons and serving to underage individuals during Labor Day and winter holidays,” says Joseph Cannon, Virginia ABC special agent in charge and former National Liquor Law Enforcement Association (NLLEA) president.

Thanks to the NLLEA, Virginia ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement received a grant of more than $20,000 in August 2014. The money was used to implement the “Operation: Prevent Impaired Driving” program. Specifically, Virginia ABC distributed news releases, participated in news conferences and pitched stories to targeted media to encourage coverage of the campaign.

The agency provided licensees with promotional materials to educate the community, such as “Do Not Sell” stickers, “We Don’t Sell to Underage” and “We Don’t Sell to Intoxicated Patrons” posters, Fake ID Facts and other prevention collateral.

“The outreach to restaurants allowed us to enhance the communications flow to remind managers, bartenders and wait staff that Virginia ABC is available to assist with any needs they might have,” Cannon says.

Virginia ABC special agents conducted additional licensee training programs for 70 participants and distributed thousands of postcards and flyers to on-premise ABC-licensed establishments announcing additional training dates, as well as tips to reduce over-service and underage consumption of alcoholic beverages.  The enforcement initiative resulted in more than 140 licensed establishment visits, 14 written warnings and 12 arrests. More importantly, prevention messaging and media campaigns had a positive impact on licensees, resulting in a lower number of violations.

“This campaign also allowed Virginia ABC’s Bureau of Law Enforcement to utilize innovative educational and community partnerships,” Cannon says. “We had the opportunity to work with agencies including Virginia’s Department of Motor
Vehicles, the Virginia Beach Police Department, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Virginia State Police. Together we created a community front against drunk driving.”

Virginia ABC is developing plans to expand this important and successful enforcement concept throughout the Commonwealth. The multi-pronged approach—education, enforcement, communications—and the strong partnerships with licensee communities and law enforcement agencies can work well in localities across the state to enhance Virginia ABCs public safety efforts.

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