The following 13 PYD service projects directly engaged youth by providing recreational activities, life or job skills training, and adult or peer mentoring:
PYD Projects for Teenage Girls
Positive youth development projects for girls focus on helping girls make responsible decisions about sex, illegal drugs and other risky behaviors. The following three projects addressed the special challenges teenage girls face:
- Best Friends Youth Development Program focused on career development and leadership activities by providing dance and musical performance opportunities. More than 4,000 girls in 23 communities participated over a 13-year period. An evaluator found that Best Friends participants were less likely than a comparison group to have ever smoked, consumed alcohol, used drugs or had sex. (See Program Results on ID# 029684 for details on the development and replication of the program and Program Results on ID# 033000 for specifics on the project in Newark, N.J.)
- The East Side House reached 53 Latina and African-American youth in Bronx, N.Y., specifically targeting the younger sisters and daughters of teenage mothers. (See Program Results on ID# 038108.)
- Grosvenor Neighborhood House provided substance abuse and pregnancy prevention services to girls aged 8 to 18 in New York City. (See Program Results on ID# 046405.)
PYD Projects for Native American Youth
Native Americans suffer from alcohol and drug use disorders more than any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released in 2007 by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.1 The following two projects engaged Native American youth in healthy activities aimed at preventing alcohol and drug use:
- The Circle of Health enrolled 100 Native American youth in Phoenix, Ariz., in an outreach program aimed at preventing substance abuse, violence and other risky behaviors. (See Program Results on ID# 040553.)
- The Cherokee Nation channeled youth into physical activity as a way to prevent substance abuse and other negative behaviors. Project staff taught 1,000 4th graders how to make healthy choices, and provided time to walk or run each week. The project also included a week-long fitness camp for 5th and 6th graders. The project was part of RWJF's national program, Healthy Nations®: Reducing Substance Abuse Among Native Americans. (See Program Results on ID# 028250.)
PYD Projects for Urban Youth
Six projects focused on at-risk youth in cities around the United States. Many of the programs involved mentoring.
- Nine U.S. Cities. The PATHWAYS Initiative® discouraged high-risk urban youth from engaging in health-damaging behavior and encouraged them to pursue activities geared toward a productive future. The project included personal and economic mentoring, life-skills training, entrepreneurial training and short-term and long-term economic incentives.
At the end of the seven-year project, 250 youth in nine cities (Atlanta; Boston; Los Angeles; New York; Omaha, Neb.; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Richmond, Va.; and Roosevelt, N.Y.) had participated; of those, 86 had graduated from high school and collected an average of $7,900 apiece in economic incentives.
The evaluation by the Urban Institute found that mentoring was clearly a key and apparently successful element of the program. Nearly all participants had mentors, with more than 85 percent indicating they enjoyed spending time with their mentors and found them supportive. The evaluators also identified improved academic performance as a program strength. (See Program Results on ID# 021292.)
- Boston. A small pilot in Boston linked youth with older adult volunteers. To instill a sense of personal responsibility, youth and their mentors planned and conducted six community service activities, including assisting at a food pantry, visiting nursing homes, and raising funds for the project's after-school program.
A process evaluation concluded that training the senior mentors helped dispel their initial concerns about working with adolescents on a sensitive subject. (See Program Results on ID# 030780.)
- Camden, N.J. The Woodland Community Development Corp. provided inner-city children in Camden, N.J., ages 5 to 14, with tutoring and enrichment activities in an effort to delay their experimentation with alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs. (See Program Results on ID# 038033.)
- Los Angeles. The South Central Prevention Coalition promotes leadership, life skills and recreation among teens in housing developments in South Central Los Angeles. Over a six-month period in 2000, the coalition enrolled 150 youth in after-school programs focused on academic skills.
Eleven high-school students mentored 40 middle-school students in developing the idea of teamwork and in promoting cooperative attitudes. The program also involved youth in community advocacy work on tobacco. See Coalition Building, Advocacy and Community Organizing. (See Program Results on ID# 038971.)
- New York. The Peter Westbrook Foundation taught fencing to urban youth as a way to help young people develop their minds, spirits, and bodies and to prevent unhealthy and unsafe behaviors, including substance abuse. In 1999, (the year of the RWJF grant) 98 percent of the high school graduates who participated in the program went on to college, a figure comparable to the best high schools in the country. Funding from RWJF enabled the Peter Westbrook Foundation to purchase new equipment, provide additional private fencing lessons, and enhance the tutoring program by allowing tutors to spend more time with the students. (See Program Results on ID# 035986.)
- Washington. The Children and Youth Investment Partnership improved its out-of-school-time services for kids in Washington. Funding from RWJF allowed the partnership to develop a strategic plan, lead city-wide forums on out-of-school-time programs and create a database of local after-school programs.
In April 1999, Children and Youth Investment Partnership won a three-year, $4-million, U.S. Department Education grant, to be matched by $6 million from the District government, to create 21st Century Learning Centers. These centers operate after-school, on Saturdays, and during the summer months in 10 middle and junior high schools throughout the city. (See Program Results on ID# 034595.)
PYD Projects in Schools
Schools have the infrastructure, commitment and talent to be at the forefront of efforts to help children and youth choose healthy lifestyles. These two projects worked in schools to create environments that promote positive behaviors.
- Energize Out-of-School Time. Communities in Schools worked with schools in North and South Carolina to develop out-of-school-time programs for children and youth. The original plan for the RWJF funding included mobilizing such programs, called Schools of Promise, throughout the country. The project was scaled back due to lack of funding. (See Program Results on ID# 033994.)
- Integrate Emotional and Moral Learning With Academics. The Child Development Project in Oakland, Calif., tested a model prevention program based on the proposition that integrating children's social and moral growth with their cognitive growth and development would help prevent problem behaviors, including substance abuse. The Child Development Project implemented the model in 12 elementary schools and compared the results with 12 control schools. After seven years, project staff reported five of 12 project schools achieved widespread positive change in teachers' goals and classroom practices (relative to their respective comparison schools). Although the model was not successful in seven of the 12 schools, the federal Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the U.S. Department of Education named it a model substance abuse-prevention program and a model violence-prevention program, respectively. (See Program Results on ID# 027098.)
In addition, many of the projects conducted by winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leaders awards focused on positive youth development. See their Web site, www.communityhealthleaders.org, for more information on the leaders and their work.
1 Survey results can be found online.