Madison Heights Community Coalition concerned about pandemic’s toll on youth

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 7, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — The Madison Heights Community Coalition, or MHCC, believes that if kids are surrounded by good influences, they’re more likely to succeed. For years, the coalition has worked to create that healthy environment. But now, with teens looking ahead to an uncertain future due to COVID-19, there’s a concern that more teens may engage in risky behaviors as a way to cope.

“Today’s youth have been strongly impacted by the pandemic, and data has shown that underage drinking has sharply increased,” said Kimberly Heisler, the executive director of the MHCC. “The youth are also feeling more anxious and depressed than ever before. This is a major concern to the coalition, because we know that youth who feel anxious or depressed often turn to substances such as alcohol or marijuana to self-medicate and cope with their feelings. Vaping also continues to be a huge concern among our youth, as new vaping products continue to flood the market.”

The MHCC is a licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofit that has been operating in the area since 2003 and in its current form since 2016 following a relaunch. The group consists of 12 board members, plus students and several parent volunteers from the Madison and Lamphere school districts.

“Our No. 1 goal is to reduce substance use among the youth in Madison Heights. We strive to attain this goal by uniting community members who have the same vision for the students in the city,” Heisler said. “Our board members represent 12 different sectors from our community so that we can spread our prevention messaging throughout Madison Heights.”

The MHCC often partners with Madison Heights Youth Assistance and both school districts to address mental health in the community. The coalition offers yoga to elementary school students at several schools in Madison Heights, and also offers “Art Adventures,” a 10-week series using art activities to help children build confidence, awareness and other life skills.

“The goal of both programs was to teach students coping skills to deal with their feelings,” Heisler said. “We also implemented a seven-week program at Wilkinson Middle School to help students learn mindfulness as a tool for dealing with stress, anxiety and other difficult feelings.”

Another partner of the MHCC is the Alliance of Coalitions for Healthy Communities, sometimes referred to simply as The Alliance. The group funds 21 coalitions in Oakland County, and offers several programs and support services for the MHCC, including family support groups and recovery support groups, as well as training on how to use naloxone, which treats narcotic overdoses.

The coalition also practices positive reinforcement, honoring students who overcome hardships and give back to the community through volunteer work while succeeding in school. The students are honored at the annual Youth Recognition Breakfast, before an audience of school and city officials. Four of the graduating seniors also receive college scholarships and other prizes. This year, the breakfast was cancelled due to COVID-19, but 32 students were still recognized, receiving their certificates and gift cards through the mail.

The coalition itself recently received a $5,000 grant from the United Way and plans to divide the money between both school districts to use for their pandemic relief funds. Some of the money will also go to the Madison Heights Food Pantry.  

The group is always looking for more volunteers, Heisler said, especially students of all ages. Anyone who would like to volunteer in the office a few hours a week can contact Heisler by emailing mhcc@madison-heights.org.

Currently the coalition is preparing for a major fundraiser that will help support their activities. The MHCC and Madison Heights Recreation Department are holding a golf outing on Friday, Aug. 14, at Sylvan Glen Golf Course, 5725 Rochester Road in Troy, featuring a scramble format with an 8 a.m. tee time.

Sylvan Glen is a traditional tree-lined golf course offering four sets of tees, ranging from 5,000 to 6,700 yards. For a cost of $100, golfers receive a continental breakfast, a box lunch, two complimentary beverages and a sleeve of golf balls. There will be contests on the course that include men’s and women’s longest drive, closet to the pin, and lowest score awards.

Register at https://bit.ly/mhgolf20. There are also sponsorships available, ranging from hole sponsors to lunch sponsors, and one can also make direct donations to support the outing. To learn more, visit madisonheightscc.com or call Heisler at (248) 837-2665.

In addition to supporting the MHCC, the funds will also support the Recreation Department, paying for free community events and scholarships for families to participate in recreational activities.

Madison Heights City Councilman Robert Corbett said the MHCC has always been an inspiring presence in the community.

“For many young people, the coalition’s recognition of their charitable efforts has energized them and planted the seeds of community service in our schools,” Corbett said. “The coalition has also not been afraid to express opinions on topical issues affecting the community and the environment that young people are growing up in. The coalition’s position is always well-reasoned, well-documented, and emanates from a sincere interest in the welfare of young women and men. Madison Heights is fortunate to have this selfless group of volunteers in our midst.”

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