There’s a new — but familiar — face at Hood River County Prevention Department.
Nubia Contreras began work two months ago as prevention coordinator of the Odell Hispanic Drug Prevention and Health Promotion Coalition. She takes over for Luz Oropeza, who served from 2014-2017.
Contreras’ fulltime position is funded through the Drug Free Communities federal grant, said Belinda Ballah, prevention department director.
“As the project coordinator, she facilitates the Odell Hispanic Drug Prevention Health Promotion Coalition activities; coordinates workplan goals attainment, including collaboration with partner agencies; participates in various community meetings and makes presentations to community partners; and provides coalition members’ and community partners prevention training,” said Ballah.
Contreras said the program will be “more or less the same” as in past years, with the goal of making it stronger. She’s still learning the ropes, but is concentrating on two main goals: To increase participation and buy-in, and to find Spanish-speaking presenters.
“We want the Latino community more involved and to be engaged in their own language,” Contreras said. “Finding presenters, however, is tricky. But I know there’s someone out there who is certified and knowledgeable and will be able to present in a way the community will enjoy learning.
“So far, I’m working on those two things,” she said. “I’ll eventually add more. Baby steps.”
Ballah said part of Contreras’ training will be education in prevention sciences, which includes 2,000 hours of training in areas such as ethics, strategic prevention framework, planning and evaluation, and public and organizational policy.
“Upon completion of the studies, she will take an arduous test in order to become a Certified Prevention Specialist,” Ballah said.
Contreras has hit the ground running. She recently got back from a week-long national conference in Washington, DC, where she learned how to engage the community at large and youth in particular.
Hood River County Prevention has HEALTH Media clubs (Help, Educate, Advocate, Lead Towards Health) at Wy’east and Hood River middle schools and Hood River Valley High School, and she feels this position brings her full circle.
Contreras was born and raised in Hood River. She attended Parkdale Elementary, Wy’east Middle School, and graduated from Hood River Valley High School in 2010. She joined the OSSOM club — a predecessor of HEALTH Media — while at HRVHS.
“I started my freshman year in OSSOM, and almost 10 years later, I’m helping guide students through education,” she said.
Having a local connection is an advantage, she said.
“Engaging with the community has been easier since people know me and they know my work,” she said. “And it’s easier to get donations because they know the work I do and the people I work with … I’ve been here in the community forever.”
Contreras is most looking forward to strengthening the department’s relationships with the Latino community. She’s done similar work before, she said, but not on an educational level.
She attended Portland State University after graduating from high school, but moved back home for family reasons, keeping up her studies with periodic enrollments at Columbia Gorge Community College. She worked at Oregon Child Development Coalition for a couple of years, and then moved to Oregon Human Development Corporation. Her work there has inspired her to go back to school to major in both social work and business with a minor in Chicano Latino studies and photography. She’s also taking Spanish — she’s bilingual, but spelling and grammar are another thing, she said. She’s currently taking a break from school, but plans to go back summer or fall term.
Aside from her work with Hood River County Prevention, Contreras has a Saturday radio show on Radio Tierra from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., where she shares current and upcoming events, music, and prevention tips. She tries to pack in as much education as she can, she said — whether that’s news, information from articles she’s read or a weather segment — to keep it interesting.
As for her new position at Hood River County Prevention, she’s excited to be learning something new.
“I’m excited to be here and see where it takes me.
“If parents have questions, they can call me for help, or I can send them in the right direction,” she added.
Contreras can be reached at 541-387-7031.