Apache Junction Wellness Partnership (AJWP) and Horizon Health & Wellness (HHW) has developed the Youth Empowerment Partners (YEP) organization to promote heathy choices among the youth of Pinal County. YEP continues to plan youth directed/adult guided activities around the county that present programs to provide young people with the knowledge, skills and resources to model and promote health and wellness in their schools and communities. In response to the controversial Netflix program “13 Reasons Why” that focused on the topic of teen suicide, the Youth Empowerment Program has hosted fall and spring Youth Matter Forums that include informational topics, skill development, youth leadership/mentorship and high interest activities at various locations around the county.

The AJ Wellness Partnership is comprised of representatives from the City of AJ, AJUSD, HHW, Superstition Area Land Trust (SALT), Empowerment Systems, Arizona Complete Health, Sun Family Health Center, Hope Women’s Center, Community Alliance Against Family Abuse (CAAFA), Superstition Arts & Cultural Alliance (SACA), United Way and the Volunteer Center of Pinal County.

This summer the YEP program will once again conduct a 23-hour youth retreat to take place at the White Stallion Ranch outside of Marana, Arizona on August 16 and 17. Ms. Sharon Stinard, Chairperson, of the AJWP noted, “We will be working with Pinal County junior and senior high school students who have been selected by their schools and community groups.” The students will be guided through bonding energizers, safe sharing activities and skill development activities. Each participating youth group is required to complete an application to include parental permission and health information. A designated staff member or community volunteer will serve as an “adult ally” who will be on point to guide, support and assist their youth team with the program activities.

Participating Youth Empowerment Partners are Apache Junction HS, Casa Grande Elementary School District, JO Combs School District, Coolidge Youth Coalition, Casa Grande Alliance, Pinal County Juvenile Court Services, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD/STAND), Pinal County Attorney, Kent Volkmer, HHW and Central Arizona College. A cross-border leadership team of students from Sonora, Mexico will also be attending the summer retreat.

Gustavo McGrew, Director of Community Relations for Horizon Health & Wellness shared, “The retreat is able to take place due to the generous sponsorship of the Leavitt Group Insurance Company and Mr. Russell True and his family who are making their beautiful ranch available to our future leaders. The cost of the retreat facility, including lodging, three meals and use of the conference and meeting rooms have been covered and there is no cost for the participants”.

The AJ Wellness Partnership is grateful to our Youth Empowerment Partners for supporting this effort to bring young people together from various communities in Pinal County, Pima County and Sonora Mexico to address significant issues faced by youth as we work together to create healthier and happier communities.

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