Teen leader works to prevent youth substance abuse and addiction

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February 07 2021 05:30 pm
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In a few days a Northland youth leadership and advocacy organization will put on one of the metro area’s really fun and unique fund raising events. The annual Mud Mania Mud Volleyball Tournament will take place June 25th at Smithville Lake to support the work of Youth With Vision. The money and awareness raised there will enable the group to continue successful substance abuse prevention campaigns that this week’s FOX 4 Young Achiever helped take to national acclaim this year.

His leadership style may be low key but make no mistake. When Conor Henry takes charge of a meeting or a project or a campaign he gets results. And many other young people and adults, including powerful politicians, follow his lead.

“They see how excited he is, how passionate he is,” said Vicky Ward, Prevention Services Manager for Tri-County Mental Health Services. “He’s organized. Leads from the front. And they join him. So it’s a very, very natural leadership style for him.” Conor is co-chair of Youth With Vision, an organization made up of Northland middle school and high school students from Clay, Platte and Ray Counties that has worked on youth substance abuse and addiction prevention for more than 20 years. Conor joined as an 8th grader and was PR chair last year.

“The way I see it, there’s a fence when you think about substance abuse,” said Conor. “You’ve got people that are against it and people who are not against it. But the majority of people are sitting on the fence. So our goal is to make sure that people come to our side of the fence.”

Youth With Vision has been recognized at state and national levels before and with Conor and co-chair Jordan Elder at the helm this year it happened again. The group received the 2016 Missouri Coalition of the Year award and Conor and several other members won ACT Missouri’s statewide Outstanding Youth Prevention award. Then Conor and other YWV leaders went to Washington, DC to accept the national Group Youth Advocates of the Year award from The Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids for successful campaigns to keep young people from using tobacco products or to give them up if they do.

“It was exhilarating,” said Conor. “It really shows that we are doing something. That we are making a difference. And that’s what needs to happen. I really think it’s a team effort and to see all of us come together and work toward this, it’s just amazing.” Conor’s worn the mantle of leadership in several other ways besides Youth With Vision and its prevention campaigns. And that’s had him thoroughly involved in other youth organizations and school and community.

“He knows his stuff and he stands firm,” said Ward. Conor did that as a superb scholar at North Kansas City High School where he soared in the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum. He starred on Northtown’s boys tennis team, in marching band and drum line and in the school’s Pro-Start culinary program. Conor’s been tireless community service volunteer for numerous good causes. And in a local Civil Air Patrol squadron he rose to flight commander of cadets.

“One of the biggest roles in a leader is being honest, being trustworthy and fighting for what you believe in,” said Conor. Especially when fighting to get children and teenagers on the right side of the fence about harmful substances.

“We want to have everyone feel that prevention is the right way to go and keep us safe,” said Conor.

Mud Mania on June 25th at Smithville Lake will be one of Conor’s last projects for Youth With Vision before he heads off to Missouri University of Science and Technology in the fall to study civil engineering. He’s working to get a big turnout of teams to play mud volleyball and you can join him and Youth With Vision there for the fun. Go to  this link for team registration and information.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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