The group became active because of inactivity.
Pasco County STAND Above the Influence, a youth-led coalition that takes on community initiatives such as underage drinking, drug abuse and more, has two divisions, with one on both the east and west side of the county.
East Pasco STAND recently reactivated, after COVID depleted its roster.
“We did a little recruitment to show (the kids) this is what we’re all about and to come out and see what we do,” said Bonni Snider, one of the four adult mentors and advisors to STAND. She’s been with the group since its formation in 2014.
“And now, we have about seven (members) back on East Pasco STAND.”
The group of middle school and high school members looks to inspire positive change, and cultivate safe and healthy communities. They focus on issues including youth drug use, mental health, underage drinking, impaired driving, tobacco and vaping use, safety, violence and bullying.
At the group meetings, which are typically once a month, the middle school and high school members choose priority initiatives and talk about what actions they want to take within the community.
Meetings typically begin at the start of the school year, Snider said.
The group generally chooses about three priority initiatives, she added.
“One thing we want people to understand about STAND and its youth is that it is entirely youth-led,” Snider said. “When we have our summit meetings, everyone gets together, and when we did, we passed around sticky notes and told them to write down what they wanted to focus on this year. Then, we take votes and narrow down to the top three.
“For example, the youth got together, then said what about all the people affected by COVID. Then they said ‘What about all those pets?’ So they did a fundraiser and donated it to a shelter and another one for needy families who needed food around Christmas.”
STAND president Maddie Horn said this year the group’s top three priority issues are youth and mental health; underage drug use; and, abuse and inclusivity.
Horn joined the group nearly five years ago as a way to become active in the community.
“We host summits for youth to come and learn about how to contribute to our initiatives,” Horn said. “We find that, at the beginning, (new members) can be, sometimes, soft-spoken or shy. But once in STAND, they find their confidence and their voice because we tell them that it matters what they do and say — it can and will make a difference.
“All they have to do is show up and be involved.”
STAND vice president Liam Moore agreed.
“Everything falls upon people participating and being active within this community because if you’re not active, how are we going to be able to do anything to make a difference at all?” Moore said. “Most people who join STAND, at the beginning, are very inactive, and what happens — they leave the group or disappear and we never see them again.
“We need teenagers and middle-schoolers to be as active as possible so we can maximize the impact we make in the community. The more kids that get involved with STAND, the more people are going to notice.”
Snider points to Horn as the best example of this.
When Horn joined STAND, Snider said, “I would have said she would have been a viable member, but our president? Back then, I wasn’t so sure.
“She came in and wasn’t sure she could do this,” Snider added. “Now, she’s the president of our STAND coalition and leading in the community and inspiring other members.”
Other members include Kiley Griggs, who has special needs and is passionate about STAND’s initiative regarding inclusivity.
“We need to educate on the intolerance of kids with special needs and disabilities and normalize it,” she said. “Thirty-five years after the ADA (Americans Disability Act) was established and those people, and kids, with special needs are still not normalized. It shouldn’t be that way.”
Snider said getting involved can make a difference, and added that STAND offers an easy way to do that.
“It is vitally important to join and be a part, to reach out, to show up, to be active (with STAND),” Snider said. “The idea as a youth, that they learn that being a part makes a difference, no matter if they have a direct connection (to an issue) or just feel passionate about being a part of something that works to help fellow youth and the community, that’s important as anything.
“And I think that people who join STAND already realize that or come to realize it.”
STAND Above the Influence
Details: STAND Above the Influence is a youth-led coalition that empowers youth to be agents of change by strengthening their voices and educating others to build a healthier community. Its members are made up of middle school and high school students who seek to embrace the voices of youth and to inspire innovative initiatives to address issues, and cultivate safe and healthy communities. The group’s priority issues include youth drug use, mental health, underage drinking, impaired driving, tobacco and vaping use, safety, violence and bullying.
STAND in Pasco County has two coalitions, one in East Pasco and one in West Pasco. The East Pasco Youth Advocacy Meeting is held every third Thursday of the month from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., at YESS Office Space, 15029 14th St., in Dade City.
Info: Visit EmpoweredCommunities.org/stand/home/, or email advisor Bonni Snider at .
Published August 09, 2023