PORTSMOUTH — When Isabelle Boullier was 13, her older sister Kyra was out driving in Narragansett on her 17th birthday when a drunk driver hit her car head-on. Kyra survived the crash, but she …
PORTSMOUTH — When Isabelle Boullier was 13, her older sister Kyra was out driving in Narragansett on her 17th birthday when a drunk driver hit her car head-on. Kyra survived the crash, but she suffered injuries to her hip and knees, forcing her into physical therapy and scuttling plans for a summer internship.
That was nearly seven years ago, but it was only the beginning of Boullier’s entry into the world of prevention.
Her entire family galvanized efforts around the near-tragedy. To combat drunk driving and other risky behavior, they created Raise Awareness Against Destructive Decisions (RAADD) at Kyra’s high school in Warwick.
“My mom and the family really took to the community to really spark spark a change,” said Isabelle, one of seven siblings. She started up a Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) chapter at her school and later did her high school senior project on the topic. “It really fulfilled me spiritually and gave me a purpose.”
Prevention, she said, “sort of runs in the family.”
Now she’s the new youth program coordinator for the Portsmouth Prevention Coalition (PPC), charged with giving a voice to middle school and high school students on the topic of risky behavior, and making sure they have the proper resources to deal with any issues they’re facing.
“Young people don’t want to be spoken for; they want to speak for themselves,” she said. “I’m here to leverage what young people need.”
Boullier will be working about 15 to 20 hours a week for PPC on top of her busy academic schedule at Roger Williams University, where she’s a sophomore studying public health police administration, with a minor in Spanish. To call her schedule busy is an understatement.
“I do a variety of things (at RWU),” she said. “I’m involved in public health issues there and I sit on the student senate. I’ll be working with the university to build a more sustainable environment.”
From February 2020 to December 2021, she worked as a youth engagement specialist for the Herren Project, created by Portsmouth’s own Chris Herren. “They met with me through my senior project, which was raising awareness on addiction and promotion recovery. I was able to put together a 30-second PSA that appeared in local theaters,” she said.
From May to July of last year, she was a technical assistant intern for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, working with Students Against Destructive Decisions to produce scripts for a “Safe Driving Summer Safety” campaign an a virtual guide for sharing traffic safety work for SADD clubs.
Boullier has also been involved with Tobacco-Free Rhode Island, Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety, the American Public Health Association, as well as the Warren, North Kingstown, and Kent County prevention coalitions.
As the PPC’s new youth program coordinator, she has started implementing a new social media strategy “so there’s a variety of ways to to talk about prevention on social media.”
If you go to the PPC’s Instagram page, you’ll find a fresher look and newer and fun ways to get the message on prevention and personal health across with accurate information, she said.
She’s also putting together a program that focuses on mental health and coping mechanisms for middle school-aged children, “to help cope with life stressors and how to work their way through those emotions.”
It’s important that kids have access to proper information about their health, she said. “Even though they’re 14, 15, 16, they do start taking care of their health and we want to make sure they have the best information possible,” Boullier said.
She’ll have a hand in the PCC’s upcoming events such as Wellness Week with Herren — “We want to make sure some of the activities are youth-led,” she said — and the National Alcohol Facts Week in March.
She also wants to reach out to the community by inviting parents, young people, school administrators and others to join the PPC’s Youth Programming Committee, which will “help advise and work through program needs and implementation.”
The community knows best, Boullier said.
“I don’t live in Portsmouth, and they’re the people I need to hear from and trust,” she said. “I can’t do this all by myself; this is kind of a community effort. My mom always says, ‘You need a village to make a change.’”
You can e-mail Isabelle Boullier at firstname.lastname@example.org.