To Avoid Drugs, Rural Youths Find Help in All Sorts of Places

Rural youth substance abuse prevention program

Shepherdstown Youth Center, a rural West Virginia community center, established a new youth program in 1995 for young people who are at risk for substance abuse and related destructive behaviors.

Key Results

Activities at the center included:

  • Co-sponsored a Drug Free Summit, which brought together youth, parents, state legislators, educators, law enforcement officials, church leaders, and concerned citizens for workshops and classes on drug abuse prevention.

  • Hosted two parenting skills worships for African American parents, which covered topics such as child development stages, parenting styles, and communicating with one's child.

  • Offered academic support services to more than 45 young people in the community. As of February 1997, about 22 elementary students were enrolled in the tutoring program, with an average daily attendance of 16. Some 23 percent of the enrolled students had been on the honor roll for more than a year.

  • Provided Board members with training on how to pursue funding and create more stable staffing patterns.

  • Formed a partnership with Shepherd University, which hired and supervised a project director. The university provides 95 percent of the center's volunteers.

The center represents a model of how public, civic, and religious organizations in a small rural community can work together to provide positive options to at-risk youth.

Program Background

The youth program includes three components:

  1. education (tutoring, academic support services, college planning, vocational training);
  2. social services (alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention programs; youth and family counseling; life skills training for parents and youth);
  3. recreation (organized recreational programs and activities; and field trips).

Services at the center are provided on a voluntary basis by community organizations and agencies, including public schools (referrals and volunteer tutoring), the Rotary Club (career counseling), the local college (volunteer tutoring, job training, and placement), the community health center (prevention and counseling services), local government (free services and financial support), businesses (computers and other equipment), and churches (volunteers, financial support, and the facility).

The center's annual budget of $35,000 has been partially covered by state and local grants, and activities such as bake sales and car washes.