Alumni of the Month  |  2018-11
November 26, 2018

DAREd to Make a Difference: Alumnus Creates Safe Spaces for At-Risk Youth

Valeriy Ryabukha is a dedicated leader and developer of future leaders. In the nearly 20 years since his first international exchange, Valeriy has drawn on his U.S. experience and his ever-growing U.S. network to promote youth leadership and prevent drug abuse, crime, and HIV/AIDS in Ukraine. Moreover, he actively shares best practices developed at home with specialists and colleagues in the United States, by participating in conferences and inviting American counterparts to learn from his work.

In 2001, Valeriy participated in the Community Issues Fellowship exchange program with the Medford Police Department in Massachusetts. As a Fellow, he researched community policing and crime prevention programs and became acquainted with substance abuse prevention programs, treatments, and policies, including the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE). These issues hit home for Valeriy, as substance abuse and HIV/AIDS incidence had been on the increase in his home city of Chernihiv and across Ukraine for several years. Upon returning to Chernihiv, Valeriy designed an educational program which promoted methods and tools similar to those of DARE. The program was Valeriy’s first project with the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, and he is still collaborating with them today.

In recognition of Valeriy’s leadership and community achievements, Valeriy was awarded a Hubert Humphrey Fellowship in 2009 to advance his efforts in youth empowerment. During his Humphrey year at Virginia Commonwealth University, Valeriy designed his non-profit organization, Prevention Center Choice, and implemented its evidence-based prevention program in Chernihiv schools. The Prevention Center Choice is now expanding across Ukraine.

Under Valeriy’s leadership, the center has successfully implemented several youth-oriented projects that educate youth on prevention of drug misuse, HIV/AIDS, and crime among adolescents.

In 2018, Valeriy received a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv to implement the “Informal School Leader” project, which engages Open World alumni and empowers young leaders, aged 13 to 14, to become involved in community development projects. The program focuses on decision-making, self-esteem, and healthy relationships, and ends with participant groups creating their own mini-projects to aid their communities.

Valeriy credits both of his international exchange experiences as “the brightest pages of [his] life” and for inspiring him to “devote [his] work for the benefit of Ukraine and the United States.” Thanks to this inspiration and Valeriy’s decades of work to prevent drug abuse, HIV/AIDS, and juvenile crime in Chernihiv and Ukraine, Valeriy has shared his passion with counterparts at home and in the United States, creating a brighter future for thousands of at-risk young people.

Each month, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Office of Alumni Affairs recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. The International Exchange Alumni community looks forward to seeing what Valeriy Ryabukha will do next, and congratulates him on being named the November 2018 Exchange Alumni Member of the Month