Multi-State "Best Friends" Program Addresses Risky Behaviors Among Teenage Girls

Expansion of teen counseling and mentoring program

Between 1990 and 2003, the Best Friends Foundation, Washington, developed and implemented a youth development program for girls in grades 6 to 12 with the message that they should wait until marriage to begin sexual relations and abstain from drinking, smoking and using illegal drugs.

The program provided an eight-session curriculum taught by teachers and others that was given throughout the school year. Each participant chose a teacher as a mentor and also engaged in dance and fitness classes and community service projects.

For girls who had spent at least two years in the program and were moving on to high school, Best Friends staff began the "Diamond Girls" program. The Diamond Girls curriculum built on the Best Friends model and focused on career development and leadership activities.

Key Results

  • By the end of the grant period in 2003, school systems were operating Best Friends programs in 23 cities in 14 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands with 4,820 girls participating.

  • Diamond Girls programs served 635 students in 16 sites in 2003.

  • Best Friends held nine national training conferences in Washington for more than 900 representatives from school systems planning to implement the program.

  • Each year, the Best Friends Foundation awarded scholarships to help girls pursue higher education. For example, from 2000–2003, Diamond Girls College Scholarships helped 51 students attend college or graduate school.