A New Plan for Jefferson City Youth

The Council for Drug Free Youth, otherwise known as CDFY, is putting a new spin on their lifelong commitment of keeping our city’s youngsters safe and sober. The group’s origin dates back over 30 years to a meeting held to educate families on the risks and concerns regarding drugs in our community. Judy Brooks, one of the founding parents, was one of the very few who attended that meeting when her children were just 11 and 15. “It was shocking to me that no one seemed to care enough to even attend. It was like no one saw drugs as a problem,” she said. Ed Moses, a retiree from the Missouri Highway Patrolman and drug expert, was at the front line of solving drug problems during that time. Ed also shared Judy’s enthusiasm and concerns for the topic. Around 1981, the two, along with several other parents, began hosting meetings at one another’s houses to spread the message. It was there that CDFY was born.

drug-freeFor years, the group provided students with several nostalgic anti-drug campaigns such as Puppets for Prevention and McGruff the Crime Dog. Their most widely known program, Safety Kids, began in local schools in 1988 and continues to this day as one of three peer to peer programs that empowers 5th, 7th, and 9th grade students to share the drug free message with their younger peers. In 1992, the group became a United Way Partner Agency which allowed them to continue and expand the programming in local schools. In the first decade of the new millennium, CDFY’s growth continued through new and enriched school programs, now totaling approximately 10, as well as fundraisers and annual events. Some of CDFY’s yearly events include the Magic Show, the Rock & Roll 5K hosted by the Jefferson City Area Board of Realtors, and the upcoming Ice Cream Social. Each month, they recognize high school students for honoring their commitment to abstain from negative choices detrimental to their success with a certificate and photo in our local newspaper. Qualifying, drug free high school seniors are even eligible to receive scholarships at the Annual Awards Banquet.

In 2014, CDFY received a five-year one-time renewable Drug Free Communities Grant which took them from a council to a coalition via their commitment to expand further into the community through advocacy, town hall educational forums, civic presentations, increased school collaboration, additional youth activities, increased law enforcement collaboration, parent programs, and more. Despite the change in status, the name of the group will remain the same. This year, they have updated their website and are working to expand their reach on Facebook and other social media. Additionally, to help reach that goal, the members of CDFY are diligently working to increase participation in their new Venture Crew; a group for young adults ages 14 to 20. They are looking for both participants and, more importantly, for youth leaders to inspire ideas, guide, and promote the activities among their peers. Executive Director, Joy Sweeney, says her vision for the group is to find teens that are right for the program and give them the freedom to soar with it. “Teens need an opportunity to show how they can positively impact others, and our mission and purpose lends itself to this initiative. We want the Venture Crew to be operated by empowered youth leaders who know what kids want to do for fun and can make it happen.” Sweeney said some of the ideas tossed around were swimming, jet skiing, zip-lining, mock Hunger Games on the Capitol lawn, and a midnight scavenger hunt. The purpose of the Venture Crew is to design and implement fun activities and hang outs that don’t expose teens to the peer pressure of drugs and alcohol. Being sober is normal, kids just need a safe place where they can feel comfortable to be themselves and still hang out with friends.

The beliefs and dedication of the coalition leaders are unwavering even when up against the growing popularity of marijuana legalization in surrounding states. Both Brooks and Sweeney agree it is most important to know that they continue to educate the community and empower youth. Brooks said, “When you continue to try, good comes out of it no matter what. You get to wake up each day knowing that what you are doing is the right thing, for the right reasons, and when that’s the case, coming to work is always fulfilling.” Any parents, teens, or members of the community looking to join or learn more about any of CDFY’s programs are encouraged to call 573-636-2411 or visit the Get Involved portion of the JCCDFY website.