Clackamas County youth deserve a positive, healthy future, and the Vibrant Futures Coalition is going to do all it can to support young people, said Tracy Hoffman, the coalition’s director.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Youth who participated in the PhotoVoice project are pictured with adult coalition members Laura MacLennan, far left, Abigail Wells, in white shirt, and Tamam Waritu, far right.In late September, Hoffman received a call from U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office, announcing that the coalition had been awarded a $625,000 federal grant, to be spread over five years in support of community efforts to reduce substance abuse among local youth.

This federal grant is funded through Drug Free Communities, part of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and in partnership with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

“Only 148 other organizations were funded, and it is a competitive grant to apply for. SAMHSA has to see that the community has buy-in; that our program is something sustainable in the long term,” Hoffman said.

Vibrant Futures started three years ago “to fill a need in the community. There was nothing out there that was dedicated to reducing substance abuse by youth,” Hoffman said.

More than 60 volunteers from a variety of sectors in the county work together and meet on a monthly basis to work on strategies and assess needs in the community, she said. The coalition is under the umbrella of Milwaukie’s Northwest Family Services, which will manage the funds, but it is the volunteer group that will choose how the money is spent, Hoffman noted.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Tracy Hoffman, coalition director of the Vibrant Futures Coalition, rolls out the Vibrant Future's banner at Northwest Family Services.Volunteers come from faith-based and law enforcement organizations or are health professionals, parents and concerned citizens. Clackamas County’s Children Youth and Families Division and the North Clackamas School District also are partners.

The grant money will be used the first year for training community members and Northwest Family Services staff on how to assess needs in the community, implement programs to reduce substance abuse and evaluate how the program is working.

“In later years, we will transition into using more resources in the community, by running alcohol stings, and supporting youth to go to training to be advocates for their peers,” Hoffman said.

Specific programs

Some of the grant money will be used to fund two specific programs that the coalition already had started, but now there is a steady funding source for the programs, so they can continue, Hoffman said.

The first one, the Positive Social Norms Campaign, takes place in all the ninth-grade health classes at Rex Putnam High School. Hoffman hopes to implement this campaign in other schools in the area.

“We want to take the negative and make it positive. Most of us choose not to get involved with substance abuse, so we have the students create posters to put up around the school to create a positive environment,” she said.

The second program, PhotoVoice, is “a social-activities program that engages youth to capture images of their community and assess the negative and positive aspects of their community. Then we talk about how they can take action and create change,” she said.

This past summer, 12 Clackamas County youth, ages 12 to 16, spent six to eight weeks taking photos. Some focused on litter and graffiti, while others took photos of community gardens and parks.

At the end of the project there was an exhibition of the students’ photos, held at Northwest Family Services.

One of the participants, Eden, 14, and a student at Milwaukie High School, said that PhotoVoice “taught her to take pictures, and she learned what her community meant to her,” Hoffman said.

Funds keep projects going

The grant money will allow both of the youth-oriented projects to continue. Volunteers and staff will focus on reducing use of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.

“We added prescription drugs about a year ago, because the Milwaukie Police Department said abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise. Youth will start with prescription drugs and move on to heroin. This is happening in our community, and it shouldn’t be,” Hoffman said.

In a recent news release, Police Chief Bob Jordan said, “Keeping our youth safe from substance abuse is one of our top priorities in the Milwaukie Police Department. Northwest Family Services and their Drug Free Community Grant is a valuable partner in this effort.”

Coalition gathering

Find out more about the Vibrant Futures Coalition, a group of community volunteers who work together with families to reduce underage drinking, marijuana use and prescription drug abuse in the community, at

The group welcomes visitors to its next meeting, held from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. on Oct. 23, at Northwest Family Services, 6200 S.E. King Road in Milwaukie.

Contact Tracy Hoffman, Vibrant Futures Coalition director, at 503-546-6377, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

n Visit for more information about Northwest Family Services.

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