Belonging and Becoming: The Importance of Fostering Connections within Youth-Led Programming

Connection is essential for change. Join our team for our first virtual statewide session. These statewide sessions will feature Regional Learning Collaborative leaders from across the state of Ohio. Our March meeting will highlight the value of group cohesion and belonging and how those connections help foster change.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will learn how the YECF coincides with the SPF and learn ideas for fostering connections amongst adult allies and youth0led participants.
  2. Participants will reflect on their own youth-led groups and identify strategies on how to overcome barriers to establishing connections.
  3. Participants will understand the dynamics of how the YECF helps sustain their groups youth led groups, the importance of belonging and group cohesion.


Christine McGill, MSW, LSW

Christine McGill

Christine earned her Bachelors in Sociology with minors in Social Work and Spanish from Shawnee State University and her Master’s in Clinical Social Work from the University of Kentucky. She has worked with youth from both urban and Appalachian communities and in various areas ranging from trio programs to early head start and crisis intervention to prevention. While she is fairly new to the youth-led prevention field, she has always believed in the power of people. Every person has a story to be heard. If individuals allow themselves to connect with others through the human experience of joy and suffering, the collective whole has the opportunity to create change and history itself.

Sunessa D. Tollie, BA, OCPSA

Sunessa D. Tollie

Sunessa is a Monroe County born and raised Appalachian. She obtained her Associate’s degree in Computer Graphics and Multimedia Programming from Belmont College and later completed a BA in Psychology through Argosy University, graduating with honors. Sunessa has been driven by her love for her community and desire to help youth navigate the life they were born into. She found her passion as a prevention specialist in the same school district she is a product of through Belmont County Student Services. She is now in her second year working as a prevention specialist.

Cheryl Sells, BA, OCPC

Cheryl Sells

Cheryl has been a part of youth-led prevention for over twenty years. She began as a teen involved in a school-based prevention program, became a volunteer upon graduation, and has been a certified prevention professional for over ten years with Youth to Youth International. Over the course of her time as a prevention professional, Cheryl has co-coordinated multiple community youth councils, served on community coalitions, managed and coordinated large national youth training conferences, and coordinated Youth to Youth’s Franklin County Youth Advisory Board (YAB). Cheryl has also assisted with the development and implementation of training and provided consultation to new and existing youth-led groups within Central Ohio and outside of Ohio. Cheryl graduated from Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts earning a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Elementary Education.

Kevin Rigby, BA, OCPS

Kevin Rigby

Kevin has been involved with Youth to Youth since 2000 when he attended his first middle school Winners Choice Camp. Kevin stayed involved throughout his high school career volunteering as a member of the Youth Advisory Board, Speakers Bureau, and attending every Youth to Youth camp and conference he could. He knew then that drug prevention was his passion and after graduating high school he began his professional career with Youth to Youth. In 2010, Kevin had the opportunity to work alongside YAB teens to develop Youth to Youth’s first prescription drug misuse prevention presentation, “The pHARMING Effects,” which has been presented and trained to thousands of students in the United States and Puerto Rico. Throughout his years as a prevention professional, Kevin has been heavily involved in the field and is an advocate for the advancement of prevention. Kevin now serves as the Manager of Youth Prevention and is responsible for managing an amazing team of prevention professionals, coordinating the Central Ohio Youth Advisory Board, and the Internationals’ Summer Conference. Kevin holds a Bachelor of Arts from Capital University where he majored in Communication and minored in Public Speaking.