Public Health Advisory Commission Recognizes SAPCA Chair Allen Lomax with Flora K. Casey Public Health Award
Last month, the Public Health Advisory Commission presented SAPCA Chair Allen Lomax with the Flora K. Casey Public Health Award. This award recognizes individuals who exemplify the legacy of Flora Krause Casey and who themselves have made a significant impact on Alexandrians’ public health and well-being.
Since Allen's first SAPCA meeting in March 2009, he has logged over 1,500 hours as a SAPCA volunteer. Some of SAPCA's accomplishmentsunder Allen's leadership as SAPCA Chair include:
Receiving two five-year federal Drug Free Communities grants, each over $600,000, to support efforts to prevent and reduce youth substance use and one four-year federal Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking Act Grant for $200,000 to expand SAPCA’s efforts to reduce underage drinking;
Working with the City of Alexandria’s Commonwealth Attorney Office and one of the local state legislators in the Virginia General Assembly to strengthen Virginia’s social host law;
Co-hosting ten youth leadership conferences to empower high school students by providing training opportunities and connecting them to resources in the Alexandria community;
Launching a series of prevention campaigns created by high school students to encourage youth to be substance-free.
Allen also serves as the Chair of the Partnership for a Healthier Alexandria.In this role, Allen has led the Partnership through two community health assessments (CHAs) and community health improvement plans (CHIPs). Recently, Allen spearheaded the Partnership's efforts to award grants totaling $80,000 to 10 organizations dedicated to advancing specific goals and strategies in the 2025 CHIP.
Please join our community in recognizing Allen for his dedication to making Alexandria a healthier place for Alexandria's children, youth, and families and for receiving this well-deserved award!
Community Connections: Supporting Parents
This fall, SAPCA collaborated with Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) to connect parents with information and resources about youth substance use prevention. Check out some of the ways we worked together to support parents in our community!
SAPCA partnered with the ACPS Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Center to share information at three family workshops about substance abuse prevention:
On October 18 at George Washington Middle School, SAPCA and the Alexandria Campaign on Adolescent Pregnancy (ACAP) co-hosted Healthy Conversations, an interactive workshop about making choices during adolescence. During this event, families learned about foundational relationship building, strategies to show love and support, and how to address difficult topics.
On October 25 at Francis C. Hammond Middle School, SAPCA Chair Allen Lomax engaged with middle school families and distributed SAPCA brochures and free parent handbooks, a resource guide created by Operation Parent that raises awareness about the latest trends, warning signs, and tips for effective parent/child communication.
On November 8 at Alexandria City High School, SAPCA Coordinator Emma Beall shared flyers about the dangers of fentanyl and brochures highlighting the Developmental Assets, the building blocks for healthy development, with Amharic-speaking families. During this event, SAPCA also distributed 12 locking medicine boxes and 55 free at-home drug disposal kits.
SAPCA appreciates these opportunities to connect with our community and looks forward to continuing to collaborate with our partners to reach children, youth, and families in our community.
Titan Takeover Recap
Over 75 Alexandria youth attended the free Titan Takeover Teen Night held at Charles Houston Recreation Center on November 3. During this safe and substance-free event, teens played basketball and other games, answered trivia questions to win prizes, visited a photo booth, danced, and participated in gift card raffles held throughout the evening. SAPCA co-hosted this event in collaboration with ACAP, the Alexandria Sexual Assault Center, the Keep It 360 Peer Advocates, and the Department of Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities.
The Keep It 360 Peer Advocates are a group of Alexandria youth who work closely with SAPCA, ACAP, and the Alexandria Sexual Assault Center to support prevention and outreach efforts.
Stay tuned for information about upcoming events for teens!
City of Alexandria Hosts Youth and Caring Adult Summit to Support Youth Safety
Over 60 youth and adults attended the City of Alexandria's inaugural Youth and Caring Adult Summit on November 9 at First Baptist Church. This event was planned and facilitated by the Alexandria Youth Ambassadors, a group of high school students that support community engagement efforts focused on anti-violence, trauma healing, and social emotional learning.
During the Youth and Caring Adult Summit, the Alexandria Youth Ambassadors facilitated interactive break-out sessions focused on youth safety, mental health, and resilience. Each break-out session was thoughtfully designed to encourage open dialogue and creative exploration through intergenerational conversations. In addition to these sessions, the event featured two high school students sharing their own experiences with mental health and school safety to provide participants with authentic and impactful perspectives on some of the challenges youth face.
The Youth and Caring Adult Summit is part of broader community efforts to advance youth safety and resiliency. Learn more about the City's youth safety and resiliency efforts here.
SAPCA Delivers Facts and Consequences Presentations to JROTC Students
On November 14 and 15, SAPCA met with Alexandria City High School (ACHS) students involved in the Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) program to deliver Facts and Consequences presentations to 131 cadets.
During these presentations, youth learned about the health, legal, and social consequences of using alcohol, e-cigarettes, marijuana, and prescription and over-the-counter medication. Students also discussed tools to cope with stress in a healthy way, created individual coping skill reference sheets in the form of "self-care menus," and learned about the City of Alexandria's Teen Text Line. Through this free resource, teens can text TEEN, SEX, DRUGS, or GANGS to 571.640.2898 to get answers to questions on health, relationships, pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, violence, and gangs within 24 hours, Monday through Friday, from trained City staff.
SAPCA is appreciative of the opportunity to share this important information with students in our community and looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the JROTC program in the future.
Interested in supporting SAPCA to deliver Facts and Consequences Presentations?
Contact Emma Beall at email@example.com. No previous experience is required and all volunteers receive training before presentations take place.
Fact of the Month: Supporting Your Mental Health During the Holiday Season
Each month, SAPCA will be highlighting a key fact to support our community to prevent youth substance use. This month we will be highlighting tips for youth and adults to support their mental health during the holiday season.
While the holidays can be a time of celebration and joy for many, it also can be a period of stress, sadness, and loneliness. As we approach the holiday season, it is important to remember that it is very common to feel added stress, and to know that this stress can worsen symptoms of a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, or a substance use disorder.
Making a plan to to support your mental health can help you take care of yourself and others. Here are some tips to help you or a loved one find moments of joy amidst the hustle and bustle this holiday season:
Pay attention to your feelings
Remember that it is okay to feel unhappy sometimes during the holidays. Recognizing your feelings is the first step to addressing and nurturing them.
Connect with community
If you can’t be near loved ones during the holidays, finding a supportive community through clubs, support groups, community centers, local meetups, and faith communities can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. Consider scheduling a regular phone call with family and friends as well.
During this time of year feelings of grief and loss can amplify. Check in on loved ones who may be alone or struggling during the holiday season. Helping a friend or neighbor not only gives joy to others, but it can improve your own happiness and well-being.
Recognize seasonal mood changes
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a condition in which people experience symptoms of depression that are triggered by the change in seasons as the days get shorter. While this form of depression often improves in the spring and summer, it is important to talk with your health care provider if you feel you are experiencing these symptoms. Treatment is effective and may include light therapy, antidepressant medication, and/or talk therapy.
Develop a plan for when you are feeling stressed, sad, or lonely
This plan may include calling a friend or family member, going for a walk, engaging in an activity that brings joy, or watching a favorite movie. Having a plan ahead of time can help ensure the difficult moments are more manageable.
It is important to schedule time for yourself and activities that recharge your mind and body. This may include reading a good book, working out, spending time in nature, and practicing stress management skills, such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness. It is also important to remember to prioritize necessities, including eating a balanced diet, getting plenty of sleep, and finding time for exercise.
Avoid alcohol and drugs
For people in recovery, the holiday season presents challenges that can trigger the use of alcohol and drugs. Having a plan for navigating social events and feelings of loneliness can reduce the risk of substance use. For family and friends, it is important to check in on those who may be struggling with substance use over the holidays.
Know when to seek help
If you feel that your mental health struggles are becoming overwhelming and difficult to handle, it is important to seek help and know that treatment is available. Information about behavioral health services for children and families in Alexandria can be found here.
Find more information about resources that support the well-being, safety,and self-sufficiency of Alexandria residents at alexandriava.gov/DCHS.
SAMHSA Issues FentAlert Challenge: Empowering Youth for Safer Choices
On December 1, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issued a challenge to America’s youth: Help us raise awareness about fentanyl and reduce teen overdose deaths. FentAlert: Empowering Youth for Safer Choices is an opportunity for youth, ages 14-18, to develop a community strategy to educate their peers about fentanyl and fake pills and prevent drug overdose deaths. Youth can participate individually, or as part of a team. The top six ideas will be awarded a $5,000 prize each, and up to 25 youth will receive a $2,000 honorable mention prize.
Click here to learn more about the challenge, including how to enter. Please help spread the word about this opportunity to support young people’s voices for a future where they and their peers can thrive.
Alexandria Library Hosts Teen Winter Creativity Contest
Looking for a creative challenge this winter? The Teen Winter Creativity Contest is a self-expressive contest for writers, visual artists and photographers in grades 6-12. This year’s theme is “What moves you?” All three categories – writing, photography and two-dimensional visual art – are open-ended. Aside from format, there are no writing or artistic limitations. Alexandria Library will distribute prizes in each category:
1st Prize: $100
2nd Prize: $50
3rd Prize: $25
The contest runs from December 14, 2023 until February 12, 2024.
Applications Open for Alexandria Seaport Foundation Apprentice Program
The Alexandra Seaport Foundationis accepting applicationsfor the Apprentice Program's January 2024 cohort. The Apprentice Program is designed for youth ages 18-23 who are eager to find a new path. Through this program, apprentices work alongside carpenters, boat builders, and volunteer mentors who teach and challenge them each day. By learning the crafts of woodworking and traditional boatbuilding, apprentices gain job skills and positive habits to support personal and professional development.
Save the Date: James Bland Memorial Music Scholarship Competition
The Alexandria Host Lions Club will be sponsoring the James Bland Memorial Music Scholarship Competition on Sunday, February 18, from 2-4 p.m. at the Lyceum (201 S. Washington Street). This competition is a wonderful opportunity to support talented young musicians in our community and provide them with a chance to further their musical education.
The competition is open to all pre-college students who reside in or attend school in Northern Virginia.
Winning students will have the opportunity to advance through several levels of competition, culminating in the Virginia State Competition in April 2024. A total of twenty-four thousand dollars ($24,000) in scholarships will be awarded to participants at the state level, with individual awards ranging from $1,500 to $3,000. Transportation and lodging costs will be provided for the state competition.
Applications Open for Scholarship Fund of Alexandria
The Scholarship Fund of Alexandria(SFA) is now accepting applications. By completing the SFA application, students are considered for over 200 scholarships The application deadline is January 31, 2024 and studentscan apply here.
Additionally, the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria will be holding weekly meetings every Wednesday after school in the Career Center Conference Room to support students in completing college or career-related applications, including but not limited to:
Volunteer Alexandria's Youth Engaged in Service (YES) is inviting students in grades 6 through 12 to join YES. YES participants will engage with non-profits, city agencies, and residents in Alexandria to create and implement projects, as students earn service hours and explore career paths.
Youth voices and input will help determine what’s important and relevant for youth; expand the network of youth engaged in service; share ideas and help plan and create new programming; engage and mobilize peers to act; assess the city's volunteer needs for youth; and can improve how and what Volunteer Alexandria does to engage youth.
Youth Advisory Council Responsibilities and Expectations:
Must be a resident of and/or attend a school in the City of Alexandria.
Be a middle or high school student (grades 6 - 12).
Participate on the Youth & Family Advisory Council for a minimum of one academic school year, and be an active member.
Provide constructive views on issues.
Represent Volunteer Alexandria in your school, your extracurricular activities, and amongst your friends and greater community.