Maija Yasui, prevention coordinator for Hood River County, was awarded a Public Health Genius Merit Award last week by the state-wide Community Health Partnership. Yasui, one of five Genius Award recipients, accepted the honor at an awards breakfast Thursday in Portland attended by more than 300 people.
Yasui was nominated for the award by the Oregon Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking, a program run by Oregon Partnership which is a Portland-based non-profit organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse.
“Maija has a gift for communications, is exceptionally skilled in working with young people and has been successful in providing prevention services to minority youth, especially Latino, Hispanic and Japanese young people in Hood River County,” said Judy Cushing, president and CEO of Oregon Partnership. “As a nationally certified drug prevention specialist, Maija has provided countless educational opportunities for Hood River County and has proved to be a leader in prevention planning and strategy implementation.”
The Community Health Partnership sought nominees from throughout the state whose work has resulted in significant and lasting change in the field of public health. Yasui was was honored along with several medical providers, and was the only award recipient to be involved in prevention.
Yasui has been a tireless advocate for drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention among Hood River County youth, serving as prevention coordinator for the past six years. Before that she was director of Project SixTeen, a previous incarnation of the county’s youth drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention efforts.
Yasui has been a board member of the Oregon Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking for four years, and a board member of Oregon Partnership for a year.
Yasui says credit for the Genius Merit Award goes to the efforts of all Hood River County agencies that work together to support local families and youth.
“It’s Hood River — not Maija — and the way agencies work together,” Yasui said. “We’re large enough that we have many different social services, but small enough to know that if we lose one of those, we’re hurting. So we’re dependent on each other in a way that’s positive.” Yasui said Hood River has a reputation for being “family friendly,” with community members showing strong support for prevention efforts.
The Genius Merit Award came with a check for $500, which Yasui will share with the Gorge Community Foundation and the Columbia Gorge Center.
“It’s not about me,” Yasui said. “It’s about the community and the way it works together.”