Commentary: A student’s perspective on STEPS

Megan Albanese, STEPS Coalition outreach manager

For the past six years, the Southington STEPS Coalition has had the privilege of working with Julia Brilla, a Southington High School senior who will soon be graduating. Julia is a treasure to this community, and her passion, energy and kindness are put into every initiative.

Julia recently shared a letter about her experience with the substance abuse prevention coalition, and we want to pass it on to Southington Observer readers (with her permission):

“Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success, also known as STEPS, is an incredibly active and vital asset to the town of Southington. One of the first major coalitions of Connecticut, STEPS has done a tremendous amount of work towards preventing substance abuse and participation in risky behaviors among our town’s youth. I am incredibly proud to be a member of their organization.

“STEPS has been a tremendous influence in my life, so much so that it has inspired me to major in journalism with a focus on public health and a minor in health communications during my time in college. I could not be more thankful for the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned from this coalition, all while fighting for a cause I am passionate about.

“My start with STEPS began when I was 12 years old as a seventh grader at DePaolo Middle School. I received a nomination to be a part of the youth council, a committee within STEPS that focuses on youth preventing their peers from making risky decisions like using illegal substances.

“When l joined this group, the members were working on creating two local ordinances that would help curb underage tobacco and alcohol consumption in town. The first required retailers in town to lock all tobacco products and paraphernalia behind their counters to keep access away from kids, and the second required all venues hosting “happy hour’ events to add language to their advertisements stating that you must be 21 or older to drink, and that patrons would be carded.

STEPS (Southington’s Town-wide Effort to Promote Success)
200 North Main St., Southington, CT 06489
Tel: (860) 276-6285

“With the help of the Town Council and endless hours of preparation and research, we were able to pass both ordinances. It was the first time I’ve ever been directly involved in such an important and remarkable change for the community, and it inspired me to continue my work with the STEPS coalition for the next five years.

“Now, I serve as a co-chair of the youth council as well as a member of the advisory board—the committee that oversees the entire STEPS coalition. Throughout my experience with this incredible group, I have not only learned about the importance of substance abuse prevention efforts and the perseverance it takes to implement different campaigns and strategies, but I have also learned many valuable life skills that extend far beyond my work in prevention.

“Through speaking with town officials and other important members of the community on a regular basis, I’ve been able to learn public speaking skills. I have also learned the importance of teamwork and delegation through my consistent work in subcommittees and with the entire group.

“The importance of knowing how to be a good leader and knowing when to step aside and let others take the wheel is a key skill in working cooperatively.

“Most importantly, I’ve learned how to be confident in a professional setting. Pitching campaign ideas and receiving critique can be an incredibly nerve wracking process, but the respectful environment STEPS creates when sharing ideas makes the coalition an incredible organization to learn from and work with.—Julia Brilla”

Thank you, Julia, for being a wonderful role model and leader to your peers.

Megan Albanese is the STEPS Coalition outreach coordinator. She can be reached at (860) 276-6281

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