Our Youth Matters

CAC Partnering with AJWP to Combat Pinal County’s Youth Suicide Epidemic


Ben Smith, Cactus Writer

CAC’s Superstition Mountain Campus has joined the Apache Junction Wellness Partnership’s (AJWP) Youth Empowerment Program. This program is aimed at helping Pinal County’s teenage population address issues such as suicide, suicide ideation, self-harm and depression within their communities.

The program is based on the popular Youth-to-Youth program that has helped teenagers in California address these same issues. The concept behind Youth-to-Youth is simple, yet revolutionary: youth-led but adult-driven discussions and activities.

On August 18 and 19, 2017, the AJWP held a Youth Matters Retreat at the White Stallion Ranch outside of Tucson, Arizona. The Retreat brought together partners of the AJWP, 22 young people from Pinal County schools, and their adult chaperons. The Retreat discussed the issues of depression and suicide ideation within these students’ communities, and also offered an introduction to the Program as a whole.

The AJWP is a large coalition of local organizations in Apache Junction, including CAC, the HOPE Women’s Center, the Apache Junction Unified School District, Apache Junction Boys & Girls Club, the Pinal County Volunteer Service and other educational, government, and community service-focused organizations. The Partnership has put on several health and wellness-focused events throughout Apache Junction, though its main focus this year is on the AJWP as one of the largest programs the Partnership has ever put on.

The Youth Empowerment Program was created as a response to the increased risk of suicide among local teenagers after the release of the controversial Netflix television series “13 Reasons Why,” which depicted the suicide of its main character.

Superstition Mountain Campus will be hosting a similar event, titled the Youth Matters Forum, on April 8, 2018, during the latter half of the spring 2018 semester. A planning session for the Forum is scheduled for November 18, 2017.