The Sober Sight Fundraising Campaign and Online Auction

Published in the December 2020 edition of the Questa News (pg 20)

Read the entire December 2020 edition of the Questa News

Vida Del Norte Coalition has been engaging with the youth in our community to see what they think would help them keep themselves and their peers from misusing substances. They wish they had a safe drug and alcohol-free place where they could be together, work on homework, play games, get creative, and just hang out.

Creating a safe place for youth can help protect them from the factors which cause them to be at risk for misusing substances. A safe place also provides them with opportunities to learn life skills through interactive engagement. Vida Del Norte wants to transform the new location they now have in Questa into a center that can be used by the youth, as well as continue to host activities for the community.

The Coalition is launching “The Sober Sight,” a fundraising campaign, through December 21 to raise money to transform their new office space into a safe environment for the youth and the community. They are hosting an online auction with great gifts for the holidays donated by local businesses and artists. You can also make a donation to this fundraising campaign without purchasing an item on the auction. Visit today to place your bids or make a donation.

It is also not too late to make a tax deductible donation of an item to the Vida Auction, you can contact Maria Gonzalez, Coalition Coordinator at (575) 779-2260. Vida Del Norte wants to thank everyone for helping to prevent substance misuse in our communities. Together we can reduce the risk and influence of drugs and alcohol on our youth.

Left: Praying Hands Cross made of Ponderosa Pine Wood by local artist George Vigil
Right: Original Oil Painting of St. Anthony Church in Questa, NM by Michelle Samantha Martinez

Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey
Once every two years, the Vida Del Norte Coalition in Questa conducts a Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey to assess the risk of substance misuse for
the youth in our community. After the survey is completed the data are published in a report. The results of the last survey in 2019 are alarming. According to this survey, 59% of youth in high school drank

alcohol at least once in the 30 days prior to the survey, 68.1% had used tobacco products, 48.9% had used marijuana and 29.8% had used prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them. These percentages are higher than the national averages. Please visit if you would like to see the full report, with complete from the Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey.

Read the entire December 2020 edition of the Questa News

Vida Del Norte Announces New Location!

Published in the October 2020 edition of the Questa News (pg 19)

Read the entire October 2020 edition of the Questa News

The Vida Del Norte Coaltion is excited to announce a new location.
We have moved to 62 Highway 38 in Questa. We are on the right as you head toward Red River, the pink building across the street from the old Waylen’s Funeral home. Feel free to stop in and have coffee and conversation with Maria Gonzalez, Vida’s Program Coordinator, on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8:00 am -12:00 pm or by appointment at (575) 779-2260 to discuss what Vida Del Norte has going on in our community.

Photo by Maria Gonzales
The new location of the Vida Del Norte Coalition at 62 Highway 38.

In the recent weeks of having our own space, we have successfully hosted a few Family Outdoor Movie Night and hope to continue through the colder months on a safe smaller scale. We also hosted a town hall meeting to brainstorm and come up with constructive solutions regarding the issues present with the youth and our community.

Vida Del Norte has partnered with Brian Salazar and Magdalena Miera of Taos Behavioral Health to host a social emotional study group for youth in our community two days a week. We are committed to providing access to services, and by having our own space we can accomplish this very need. Vida Del Norte is working on creating a safe space for individuals to receive therapeutic services and case management, in collaboration with other local service providers. Within time we hope to also host AA, NA, and Al-Anon meetings and parenting groups for both youth and adults.

Vida has also heard the voices of our youth and is in the process of raising funds to furnish their space so that they can have a safe alcohol and

drug-free place to hang out and socialize. There is so much potential for great growth in our community and Vida Del Norte is committed to participating in that growth!

Maria Gonzalez Vida Del Norte Program Coordinator (575) 779-2260

Read the entire October 2020 edition of the Questa News

Anastacia Gonzalez; Giving Back to the Community

Published in the August 2020 edition of the Questa News
(pg 21)

Read the entire August edition of the Questa News

Anastacia Gonzalez was the very first youth member of the Vida del Norte Coalition. She was instrumental in helping the Coalition understand what the young people in our community are experiencing with substance misuse.

Anastacia reports that there are other ways to cope. She graduated from Questa High School this year and plans to move to Colorado Springs this fall in pursuit of higher education. She stated that being a part of the Coalition and learning how the opioid epidemic continues to rise because of over-prescribing of pain medication, especially to the youth and elderly.

This has influenced Anastacia’s decision to study alternative medicine. She recalls having several sports injuries and her parents taking her to the chiropractor and acupuncturist as an alternative to modern medicine. Anastacia will be pursuing massage therapy certification and plans to continue with a degree in biochemistry, and eventually finish as a chiropractor. She hopes to return home one day and have an office in the Enchanted Circle, as she feels like we are limited locally on alternative ways of healing. “I would like to return home and give back to the community. I know that my grandma would be able to use this service!”

Anastacia says, “Growing up in Questa, my parents gave us opportunities to grow. Since we were young we were always involved in something. We hiked and fished, I began playing soccer when I was four years old, and got to play on a traveling team with a group of girls from Los Alamos. We had the opportunity to play at different tournaments here in New Mexico and Colorado. I moved on to play other sports as well: volleyball, basketball, and track. I got to meet kids from other communities and realized that some of the things that were happening in my community that we thought were normal weren’t happening elsewhere.

Alcohol and drugs in our community have become part of our culture and it’s not out of the norm to see adults and youth drinking or using substances. It was hard to see these things taking place, being normalized and nothing being done in our community. This was something that my friends and I talked about and another reason I joined the Coalition.

Throughout my middle school and high school experiences I was involved with Student Council, Honor Society, and Q-Town Drama Club. Through these organizations I volunteered in the community regularly and enjoyed giving back. I have also done volunteer work through the Coalition. I really enjoyed distributing food at the Food Pantry to our community members, especially during this time when people are without jobs and aren’t able to provide food for their families.

When I joined the Vida Del Norte Coalition, I didn’t realize it was a nationally recognized organization and several communities have benefited. The Coalition has made a difference with their partnership with Drug-Free Communities, SAMHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services), Drug Enforcement Administration 360, and the Centers for Disease Control. My mom tells me to look for opportunities that can open doors for me and I think that’s what she envisions with the Coalition. Being one of the first members of Active8 I hope that I was a good role model for the younger members. I was only part of the Coalition for a year-and-a-half, but I think that the rest of the Active8 members will make a real difference in our community, because they are all younger and they can lead the way to make a difference for the younger generations in our community.”

Read the entire August edition of the Questa News


Published in the August 2020 Edition of the Questa News
(pg 20)

Read the entire August 2020 edition of the Questa News

For August we honor the members of the Active8 Youth Group as Volunteers of the Month. The Active8 are associated with the Vida Del Norte Coalition and are an instrumental part of it. We thank them for all their hard work this summer in the Questa community. Their involvement is crucial to the work of the Vida Del Norte Coalition to try to prevent substance abuse in our community. Volunteering is a great way to give back and help strengthen our community while bringing us closer together. It can also be very empowering and educational. The members of Active8 are working hard to help make our community and the world a better place and we want to thank them for all that they do and for being wonderful, unique, and caring individuals.

Some of the Active8 members volunteer at the North Central Food Pantry, helping to pack up and distribute food. The pandemic has added a strain to operations since food must be packed up and brought out to cars to maintain social distancing. “We love having them! Some of these young ladies work inside loading the boxes, and some load them on the vehicles as they drive through,” says Jeannie Masters at the Food Pantry.

Photo by Rachel Kuc
Active8 members of the Vida del Norte Coalition volunteer at the North Central New Mexico Food Pantry. From left is Ashlynn Rael, Alianna (Booboo)
Gonzales in the middle, and Amalia Gonzales on the right.

Kate Cisneros is also thrilled to have the volunteers help at the Food Pantry, “It’s really nice because they learn what it is to give out and not receive. That’s my whole thing, to teach them that it’s a lot of work, but we are doing it because we want to help the public, the community,”

Angelica Lovato, a 16-year-old from Questa, comments, “It has been cool
to help out in our community a little more. I think we definitely need that.
I think we have kind of separated and
I wish that we could get back closer together like it used to be. I’ve always liked helping people but it is definitely in a different light when you are helping people you don’t know… You don’t know what they are going through or if they are struggling. It makes you want to do more.”

Ashlynn Rael, age 13, said, “It’s been fun, it gets me out of the house, helping other people.” Another Questa 13-year- old, Alianna (Booboo) Gonzales, said, “It’s good to help around with stuff for people who can’t do it by themselves.
It feels good to volunteer for people.” She also said her favorite thing about the Food Pantry is that the ladies over there are funny!

The North Central Food Pantry distributes food on the second and fourth Friday of each month from 11 am – 2 pm. You can find more information

and directions at You can also make donations on their website, which are always welcome and appreciated!

Three of the Active8 members have paid internships at the Questa Farmer’s Market this summer: Kaylee Piper, Amalia Gonzalez, and Booboo Gonzalez. It is impressive to see how hard the interns are working, how engaged they are, and how well they work together and with the community. Booboo Gonzales is motivated to get out of bed on Sundays, she says, “I can at least go somewhere instead of doing nothing!” Sometimes staying in bed is wonderful and we all need our rest. It’s a good thing for us all to remember that there are always plenty of ways we can help out in our community if we decide to get out of the house and out of our comfort zones.

Young people, please consider joining the Active8 group! It’s a great way to get more involved in your community, express opinions, learn about the dangers of substance abuse, or just have something to do to get out of the house  and it is very empowering. Parents or youth can find out more about joining Active8 and the Vida Del Norte Coalition by calling director Maria Gonzales at
(575) 779-2260 or by visiting the website at

Read the entire August 2020 edition of the Questa News

Anti-Vaping/Anti-Underage Drinking PSA Contest!

Published in the July 2020 edition of the Questa News (pg 22)

Read the entire July 2020 Questa News edition

To celebrate the creative youth in our community, The Vida Del Norte Coalition is launching an Anti-Vaping/ Anti-Underage Drinking Public Service Announcement Contest! This contest will help spread the message to be smart because youth using alcohol and vaping is dangerous to their health and development.

A PSA is a short informational clip that is meant to raise the audience’s awareness about an important issue such as underage drinking or vaping. PSAs are basically commercials with a positive message. They may include many types of video or audio content, such as interviews, dramatizations, animations, text, or images.

A good example of a PSA video is from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) entitled Talk. They Hear You. The youth in our community can help spread awareness about the dangers of underage drinking and vaping, show their commitment to an alcohol-free and vape-free lifestyle, and win prizes by entering a 30 to 90-second video to the Vida Del Norte Coalition PSA Contest.

All video submissions will be showcased on the Vida Del Norte webpage and social media pages. The grand prize winner will receive a cash prize of $100! The 2nd-prize winner will receive a cash prize of $75, and the 3rd-prize winner will receive a cash prize of $50. Clubs, school groups, and school teams are encouraged to enter.

All entries are due by August 31, 2020. Entries will be judged at the Vida Del Norte Coalition September Monthly Meeting.
Please visit for all rules and regulations to enter.

Read the entire July 2020 Questa News edition


Vida Del Norte and Active8: A Busy Spring and Summer!

Published in July 2020 in the Questa News (pg 22)

Read the entire July 2020 edition of the Questa News
The members of Active8, the youth volunteers with Vida Del Norte Coalition, have been staying busy lending a helping hand in our community this spring. They have been helping out at the North Central New Mexico Food Pantry. One day they gave out close to 200 boxes of food! Some of the Active8 have also been working as youth interns at the Questa Farmers Market.

Active8 conducted a survey of our local alcohol establishments to determine the amount of alcohol advertising that our youth are exposed to on a daily basis. Much has been discovered. There were 9 advertisements at one location, 11 at another, and 19 at the other establishment.

We did not see any alcohol advertising anywhere other than the liquor establishments, which is a good thing. The reason for completing this project is to bring public awareness to the fact that people have become desensitized to how alcohol is perceived in our culture. Alcohol marketers have made alcohol look glamorous, fun, and entertaining, sending the message that people need alcohol to have fun.

The focus of Vida Del Norte  is to change that mindset in our community. Starting with our youth, we hope to re-sensitize our children and adults to understand that some of the messaging that kids receive can have a negative effect on them.

Vida Del Norte will be placing positive messages throughout the community that portray fun ways to live without alcohol or drugs. We will also be working with local establishments to address the amount of advertising on their premises. Our goal is to come up with a positive messaging solution for our community and youth.

Read the entire July 2020 edition of the Questa News

Class of 2020 Senior Parade

Published in July 2020 in the Questa News (pg 22)

View the entire July 2020 edition of the Questa News

Photo by Amy Vialpando
Senior Parade: There may not have been a graduation ceremony but QHS Class of 2020 got a Senior Parade! Organized by Maria Gonzalez and Mary Flores, the parade was held on May 30th. Pictured above are George Rael and John Martinez who rode their horses among the floats.

On May 30, the parade honoring our 2020 Questa High School seniors was a success. Organized and planned by Maria Gonzalez and Mary Flores, it was important to show these great young adults that the community cares for them and that they are not forgotten during this COVID-19 pandemic.

These 2020 seniors, like so many others, lost out on the last months of the best times together that they will never get back. Graduation, Senior Night, and Prom are a special time in their lives that were replaced by the world of computerized virtual ceremonies that are not heartfelt or personal. “I commend the Class of 2020 from Questa High School for their hard work and commitment in getting their diplomas,” said Mary Flores.

On this beautiful day in May, Highway 522 was filled with people all along the sides cheering and waving to the graduates as they paraded through Questa on their decorated vehicles. While they drove past the stoplight near Rael’s Market, their names were announced by Mr. Michael Rael Sr,. and recognized for their accomplishments. The smiles on their faces were priceless, giving us that vision of hope that these young men and women will do great things as they venture on their own journeys.

This community event was a collaboration between Questa Class of 2020 senior parents, Vida Del Norte Drug-Free Coalition, The Village of Questa, Questa and Cerro EMS, Taos County Sheriff ’s Office, Harvest Questa, Living Word Ministries, and other community members.
 Del Norte Coalition thanks all who helped make this event possible.

The graduation parade was live streamed, and the video is up on the Vida Del Norte website for those who could not see it
 in person.  More photos and the video
 can also be viewed online at and also on our Facebook and Instagram pages:,

View the entire July 2020 edition of the Questa News

Teens Spotlight Alcohol Advertising in Taos

Published in June 2020 in the Questa News (pg 21)

View a PDF of this entire June 2020 Edition of the Questa News

QUESTION: What can happen when 10 teenagers get together to take a close look at alcohol advertising in Taos?

ANSWER: A lot!

It started last year when Taos Alive Youth Coalition member teen participant, Amy Lewis and Taos Alive staff members Alana Lee and Cassidy Richison took a close look at alcohol advertising at 26 restaurants, bars, gas stations, and liquor stores along the Paseo del Pueblo in Taos.

It was eye-opening, for sure! Amy and Alana converted the photos they took from this environmental survey into a slideshow. The result is a dramatic display of alcohol-branded neon signs, umbrellas, sandwich boards, wall signs, and more.

On April 8th, Amy presented the slideshow to members of the Active 8, the Vida del Norte Drug Free Youth Coalition from the Questa area. The group has been very active (hence the name!) in raising awareness and preventing substance abuse in our local communities. Amy, who had never met the other teens, conducted the online training like a pro and together the group became more enlightened about the extent of alcohol advertising right here in their own backyard.

One of Amy’s insights from doing the overview of advertising was her realization of the effect that alcohol advertising has on youth. “When we don’t notice
the number of signs, we’re not aware. It’s desensitizing us. It becomes a norm.” The Active 8 Questa teens agreed.
They spoke about alcohol-branded items in their homes and other ways they are exposed to alcohol advertising without
being aware of it. Amy noted, “The content is getting into your head anyway, and you can’t address it until you really notice it.”
One teen stated that “to sell alcohol it’s made to look fun and glamorous. It’s never acknowledged that it could be dangerous.”
By the end of the power-packed hour, these teens had some clear ideas about changes they wanted to create, stating
“it is more important to have a healthy community than successful alcohol companies.”
They want to see the community open up the conversation about the acceptance of alcohol use and advertising. They believe community members “could be coached” to get used to a lower level of each.
Their take-home resolve was to “create a community mindset that makes it harder for these messages to get to people. All over town, we could reduce alcohol signage.”
In realizing that the high saturation of alcohol advertising in our visual
environment has a desensitizing effect, the two youth groups propose to make
a project of their findings. Their goal is to find ways to bring to light how advertising methods found in everyday places like restaurants, gas stations, and stores have a negative effect on youth. Although youth are the most vulnerable and possibly the target of this advertising, it affects everyone. The group hopes to work on policies to protect people from the false notion that alcohol consumption is a healthy and normal activity for them, their families, and their communities.

View a PDF of this entire June 2020 Edition of the Questa News

Must Know Information for Prom and Graduation

By Rachel Kuc’
Published in April 2020  in the Questa News (pg 11)

View the entire April 2020 Questa News edition

Given the current uncertainty regarding the COVID 19 outbreak, as of this publication date, we do not know if there will be Prom or a large graduation gathering. We chose to print this article, since it contains very interesting and important information!

Spring is here and the end of the school year is coming soon. It is almost time for prom and graduation! These fun and exciting events too often involve underage drinking, and drinking and driving. Here are some facts about the dangers and consequences of underage drinking and some ideas for staying safe during this memorable time:

• According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving 4,300 people each year are killed due to teen alcohol use in the US. One in four car crashes with teenagers involve an underage drunk driver.

• According to the National Highway Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and about a quarter of those deaths involved an underage driver who had been drinking. The NHTSA statistics also demonstrate that one in three alcohol-related fatalities occur during prom and graduation season, from April to June.

• Youth who start drinking before the age of 15 are six times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse later in life.

• A 2017 survey by the New Mexico Department of Human Services revealed that an average of 26% of high school students in New Mexico reported having at least one drink on at least one day in the 30 days prior to the survey. In the same time period, while 10% of male students had five drinks, 13% of females reported having four drinks or more. Of the students who drank, 7% said they had driven a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and 20% had ridden in a car at least once with a driver who had been drinking.

• Underage drinkers may drink less often than adults, but according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, they drink more heavily when they do. In other words, they drink to get drunk. A recent survey found that underage drinkers consume an average of five drinks on average, five times per month. Underage drinkers say that 24% of them had 5 to 8 drinks the last time they drank and 10.4% report that they had 9 drinks or more.

Some teenagers gearing up for prom and graduation might hear adult family members or friends tell stories about when they were young and drinking. This sends the wrong message to teens. Not only is underage drinking dangerous, it can result in life-changing consequences for young people and adults responsible for providing them with alcohol. Under- age drinking, buying or serving alcohol to teens, or hosting parties and allowing minors to have alcohol now comes with some strict penalties that could affect the future of teens and adults alike.

Prior to 2004, it was a misdemeanor to sell or give alcohol to a minor: anyone under the age of 21. According to the New Mexico Law Enforcement Academy’s online publication, “Liquor Laws in New Mexico,” after two high profile cases where young people died under the influence of alcohol, the New Mexico Legislature voted to make it a fourth-degree felony.  An adult found guilty of giving or selling alcohol to a minor risks jail time and fines, and will bear the burden of being a convicted felon.

According to New Mexico Statutes 60-70-B1, it is a violation of the Liquor Control Act for a minor to attempt to buy, receive, possess, or be served alcohol. If a minor is found guilty on these counts, they can be charged with a misdemeanor and penalty fine of up to $1,000, 60 hours of community service and up to a 2-year suspension of their driver’s license. If a business with a liquor license sells or serves alcohol to a minor, they face up to $10,000 in fines and their liquor license could be revoked, according to the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

It is against the law for parents or guardians to host parties and serve alcohol to minors even with parental con- sent. Parents and guardians who allow anyone under the age of 21 to remain in their home while consuming or process- ing alcohol are also breaking the law. Adults who are not parents or guardians who serve or sell alcohol to a minor can be prosecuted for “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” or for violating the Liquor Control Act. Both of these are fourth-degree felonies and can result in imprisonment for up to 18 months and a fine of up to $5,000.

It is good for parents and guardians to talk to teens about where they are planning to celebrate after prom or graduation and communicate with the parents who are hosting parties to make sure that they do not intend to serve alcohol or tolerate teen drinking.

Teens might plan to go to more than one party on prom or graduation night. Parents and guardians can talk to teens about their plans for transportation and assure them that if they find them- selves in a dangerous or uncomfortable situation or without a sober ride, they can call and will get picked up, with no questions asked.

Prom and graduation offer a great time for parents, guardians, and teens to talk together about their concerns regarding underage drinking. It is an opportunity for parents and guardians to let their teens know how proud they are that they can trust them to make grown-up decisions. Prom and graduation are the perfect times for teens to prove that they are responsible, trustworthy, and mature enough to make smart choices.

Celebrating prom and graduation with friends is a wonderful way to honor high school achievements and to create unforgettable memories. Alcohol makes those memories fuzzy and in extreme cases there may be no memory at all. When we have fun and celebrate together without the influence of drugs and alcohol, we create happy memories that will last. We are also more likely to get home safely without doing something we regret.

Drinking can be dangerous to your health, especially for young people who are still growing. Adults and teens alike often do dumb, embarrassing things when they are drunk that they normally wouldn’t do and then wish they hadn’t. Prom night or a graduation party can easily be ruined by one thoughtless, drunken act. Some might believe that drinking alcohol will help them have a good time on these occasions. These events are just as much fun, if not more so, without the risks and the worries of underage drinking.

Staying sober gives us the confidence to be ourselves; drugs and alcohol can get in the way of that.

View the entire April 2020 Questa News edition

E-Cigarette Use by Questa Area Youth

By Maria Gonzalez
Published in March 2020 in the Questa News (pg 22)

View the entire March 2020 Questa News Edition

E-Cigarettes are a hot topic around the nation right now and Taos County is no exception. E-cigarette use among youth has increased at an alarming rate. Reasons for this explosion is in part due to the lack of understanding about e-cigarettes and a misconception that they are safe.

Safer maybe, but that doesn’t mean safe, which is a common misconception by both youth and adults alike. Vida Del Norte has chosen to target e-cigarette use because of the high rate of use among our youth. Below is the data that has driven this concern. We have the highest rate of e-cig use in Taos County. Vida Del Norte views e-cigs as a gateway to other substances, and therefore we are choosing to utilize target strategies to prevent its use.

“How can e-cigs be a gateway?” you ask? Every vape juice on the market has a small percentage of nicotine. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that causes the brain and body to crave more, and over a period of time the body believes it needs the substance to function. This creates a behavioral change. If a child or adult opens the gateway to a habit that is detrimental to their health, once they cross that line, it is much easier to say yes to other harmful and more dangerous influences. That is the definition of a gateway drug and is especially concerning while working with our youth. The big e-cig companies have marketed and targeted our kids. This should be obvious with such vape juice flavors as bubble gum and other candy flavors.

Vida Del Norte is committed to address this epidemic that is taking our youth by storm and we are here to tell the big e-cig companies that they can’t have our kids. Below is data that was collected in 2015 and 2017; it shows the impact e-cigs and other substances have on our youth. Please take some time to look over the data and read some of the facts below and be looking out for some information coming on ways we look to combat this issue.

Here are some facts: Brought to us by our partners at Taos Alive

  • Scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes.
  • Some of the ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could also be harmful to the lungs in the long-term. For example, some e-cigarette flavorings may be safe to eat but not to inhale because the gut can process more substances than the lungs.
  • E-cigarette aerosol is NOT harmless “water vapor.”

• The e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including:

• Nicotine
• Ultra fine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
• Flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
• Volatile organic compounds • Cancer-causing chemicals
• Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
• Nicotine can harm the developing adolescent brain. The brain keeps developing until about age 25.
• Using nicotine in adolescence can harm the parts of the brain that control attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.
• Each time a new memory is created or a new skill is learned, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. Young people’s brains build synapses faster than adult brains. Nicotine changes the way these synapses are formed.

Vida Del Norte Coalition