Each year young adult leaders are the driving force for the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control’s (ABC) Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Project (YADAPP).

This year two of these volunteer leaders will represent Botetourt County at the project launch to develop plans to combat underage substance use across the commonwealth.

For more than three decades, enthusiastic teams of Virginia youth have convened for a week in the summer to brainstorm ways to inspire their peers to keep their schools and communities alcohol-free and kickoff a yearlong partnership for substance use prevention. Among the youth from around the state who will volunteer their time and concerted efforts to lead this year’s conference will be Zachary Keith of Buchanan and Dylan Odum of Fincastle.

The YADAPP kickoff conference is set for July 17-21 at Longwood University in Farmville.

“Preventing substance use is more effective when we use peer-to-peer strategies. These youth staff will train and assist more than 300 of their peers in developing prevention plans for their respective schools and communities, and the ripple effect will be dynamic,” said Virginia ABC Chairman Jeffrey Painter. “We are very proud of the outstanding young men and women who donate their considerable time and energy each year to promote a healthier environment for Virginia’s students.”

This year 58 youth staff will guide and coach student participants through the program, which requires that each team in attendance develop Strategies to Act Now (STAN) plans. The plans are created to prevent high school substance use within their own school and/or community.

YADAPP has given rise to many innovative and collaborative programs over the years to promote safer and healthier lifestyles. Some of those have included a mentorship program, a prevention club, partnering with a school’s athletic department on alcohol prevention efforts and creating an “It Starts With Us” campaign to empower fellow students to say no to alcohol.

Alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students in Virginia, 50.7 percent reported having drunk alcohol during the past 30 days.

In addition to the YADAPP program, Virginia ABC offers many education and prevention initiatives, including a grant program that annually awards funds to community organizations for alcohol education and prevention programs across the state.