The recently formed Selah Community Coalition got its start when Selah School District student assistant specialist Deniele Fleming decided to write a proposal.

She knew the school district wanted to become eligible for some grants to assist with substance abuse prevention and intervention education. Establishing a community coalition for that work would put the school district into a better position for those grants.

“So the school district gave me the go-ahead to do that and I put together a proposal, and they liked it,” Fleming said. “They really wanted to get it started.”

Fleming helps keep students and families in the Selah School District connected and informed on issues related to drug and alcohol abuse. Her work also involves serving as a bridge between the Sundown M Ranch rehabilitation center and the school district.

The school district approved of the plan late last spring, and the Selah Community Coalition had its first meeting in September. The community outreach program is designed to assist with drug and alcohol abuse prevention. Although Selah’s coalition is new, it’s growing quickly.

There are similar coalitions throughout the Yakima Valley, each with a slightly different mission. Fleming says the purpose of the Selah group is to meet the community’s diverse and ever-changing needs.

“There’s a huge need for education and prevention around substance abuse and risk factors,” she said. “We wanted to reach outside of just connecting with students and really educate the community as the whole.”

Organizers hope to have representation from 12 different sectors of the community, ranging from church pastors to high school students. Although Selah’s coalition isn’t quite whole yet — organizers are still looking for a few more members to represent different sectors — the group is already planning the ways it can increase substance abuse awareness in the community.

“Right now, we want to be a forum for community discussion so we can decipher the community’s needs,” Fleming said. “I could have my own ideas, but the voices of the 12 community sectors are more important as a whole than my personal role in the community. My position as the coordinator is really to serve the needs that the coalition brings to the table. And how we can, together, address what those are.”

I was invited to join the coalition late in September and have been hooked ever since. It’s special to watch an invested and diverse group of people come together to support something greater.

Indiana Hilmes is a freshman at Selah High School.