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Between 1993 and 2000, staff at the National Mentoring Partnership Incorporated, Alexandria, Va., developed and implemented a project designed to discourage high-risk urban youth from engaging in health-damaging behavior and to encourage them to pursue activities geared toward a productive future.
The project, PATHWAYS Initiative® included personal and economic mentoring, life skills training, entrepreneurial training and short-term and long-term economic incentives.
Participants agreed to meet regularly with a mentor; remain involved in the program; refrain from using illegal drugs, including, for minors, alcohol and tobacco; and graduate from high school. Financial incentives included $50 quarterly dividend checks and up to $10,000 in equity plus accrued interest upon completion of the program.
Over the grant period, project staff:
Key Evaluation Findings
Under a subcontract the Urban Institute, Washington, conducted three evaluations during the course of the project. Among the findings it reported were the following:
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $999,922 in grant support between January 1993 and December 2000.
It is often difficult for urban youth without economic resources to visualize any long-term future for themselves. Mentoring programs have been used for many years as a way to improve outcomes for high-risk youth in the United States.
Staff at the MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership planned PATHWAYS Initiative in the hope that with mentoring, education and economic incentives, young people might be able to imagine a more promising future, which would lead them to refrain from some of the health-damaging behaviors that are prevalent among this population.
Philanthropists, businesspeople, educators, social activists and entrepreneurs established MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, a not-for-profit organization, in 1990. The partnership's mission is to lead the movement to connect America's young people with caring adult mentors.
This grant from RWJF provided support for PATHWAYS, a multisite project combining personal and economic mentoring, life skills training, entrepreneurial training and short-term and long-term economic incentives designed to discourage high-risk urban youth from engaging in health-damaging behavior and to encourage them to pursue activities geared toward a productive future.
Under the watchful eye of adult mentors, young people were financially rewarded for such activities as staying in school, earning good grades, performing community service, engaging in entrepreneurial activities and participating in life skills training programs.
The life skills training included interacting with others, acquiring communications skills, learning conflict resolution, keeping a journal, practicing public speaking, building trust and making decisions. The entrepreneurial training helped participants learn basic business skills, including writing and executing a business plan, and encouraged them to develop their own business.
Examples of new ventures include a T-shirt business started by PATHWAYS participants in Harlem in New York City, with the help of an outside consultant, and a printing business created by participants in Roosevelt, N.Y. Many PATHWAYS sites also created job-shadowing opportunities to expose participants to career fields of interest.
Participants were expected to refrain from using illegal drugs, including alcohol and tobacco if under legal age; to avoid teen pregnancy; and to maintain a clean legal record. Based on continued engagement in the program, participants had the opportunity to build up a savings account of as much as $10,000.
The savings accounts earned interest as well as quarterly dividends of $50 and provided an opportunity to learn how to read bank statements that show how equity can build. Participants could gain access to their accounts when they graduated from high school or earned an equivalency degree and could use the money to finance a college education, job training, a new business or a down payment on a house.
The RWJF grant supported the program's operations and administration. Under the original plan, financing for the savings accounts was to have come from investors and private foundations, whose capital was to be invested by some of the leading commodities investors in the country. Part of the investment return was to be used to fund the program, and part was to be paid to the investors.
Project staff had hoped investors would receive favorable tax treatment from the Internal Revenue Service in exchange for accepting a lower rate of return, but the IRS did not approve the plan. Instead, the program relied on $20 million from a single investor, which was invested for a time in commodity futures.
Earnings were then placed in U.S. Treasury bonds, and the principal was returned to the investor. Because the original financing plan did not fall into place, the original mentoring plans to enroll up to 1,900 youth had to be scaled back.
Organizations already engaged in youth mentoring were chosen to serve as initial PATHWAYS sites in seven cities: Atlanta; Boston; Los Angeles; New York; Omaha, Neb.; Philadelphia; and Richmond, Va. Those organizations received onetime grants of up to $20,000 to help cover the costs of the program. Later, additional programs were started in Detroit, Pittsburgh, and Roosevelt, N.Y. The Detroit program later closed due to staff turnover and other issues. (See the Appendix for details of activities at each site.)
MENTOR collected and disseminated information about the PATHWAYS program and its progress, administered the investments used for financing PATHWAYS and provided targeted technical assistance as needed. During the grant, PATHWAYS staff began making monthly conference calls to the local sites to provide information and to give managers an opportunity to discuss programmatic issues with their peers.
MENTOR subcontracted with the Urban Institute to evaluate PATHWAYS and help refine its approach. It carried out three evaluations while the project was in progress: The first focused on how well each site was implementing the mentoring model. The second attempted to update the sites' progress and to note difficulties and successes. The final evaluation focused on program graduates and the effect of PATHWAYS on their lives.
Over the grant period, MENTOR:
The Urban Institute's first evaluation focused on how well and to what extent each site was implementing the project model. The findings suggested that:
In the second evaluation, lack of funding for project staff and activities, staff turnover, and difficulty obtaining and retaining mentors continued to cause concerns. Other evaluation highlights:
The third evaluation revealed that:
PATHWAYS had 132 participants remaining at the close of the grant, who are scheduled to graduate in 2005, after which PATHWAYS will end.
Enhancing Health and Life Chances for Disadvantaged Urban Youth
National Mentoring Partnership Incorporated (Alexandria, VA)
PATHWAYS Program Sites
Atlanta, Ga. (100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc.): The PATHWAYS participants in Atlanta, African-American boys and girls who began in fourth grade, are a subgroup of a much larger cohort participating in the sponsor's Project Success Program. While the other PATHWAYS sites break for the summer, Project Success operates year-round. In the summer, participants are involved in a host of activities, which have included attendance at the 100 Black Men of America's national conferences, participation in the Ben Carson Science Academy sponsored by Morehouse School of Medicine and tours of local colleges and universities. During a variety of field trips, participants got exposure to a number of work environments and individuals who've been successful in their diverse experiences. The field trips included visits to sporting events, theatrical performances, distinctive restaurants, and a number of other work sites such as a bank operations center and AT&T. Each year participants worked in two community service projects. One year they worked with the Atlanta Outward Bound program to clean up and restore underprivileged communities. They also created gardens and refurbished museums and historical artifacts. At the end of the grant, there were 14 participants in Atlanta, and all were poised to graduate from high school in 2002. They participated in a two-day entrepreneurship camp in August 1994 and one in 1998.
Boston, Mass. (Mass Mentoring Partnership, Big Brother Association of Greater Boston, Dorchester Youth Collaborative and seven other organizations): The Boston PATHWAYS program began in 1994 as a collaborative effort among five local youth-serving organizations. In 1999 participants decided to devote their life skills meetings to writing a book under the guidance of local program staff and two mentors, who are professional writers. Participants contributed to the project by creating poetry, essays, short stories or artwork. In late 2000 they were awarded a mini-grant by the National Mentoring Partnership to offset the costs of marketing their book, Growing Minds: Writing Through the Blues. Life skills sessions in 2000 concentrated on identifying potential publishers, on writing letters and on preparing for presentations. For four years during PATHWAYS, the 20 young people along with their mentors and representatives from participating organizations also attended Biz Camp, an intensive, weeklong entrepreneurial-training program for youth. In another PATHWAYS project, the group cleaned the inside and the grounds of an abandoned crack house and received a $2,500 prize in honor of its efforts. Since the inception of PATHWAYS, the executive director of the Massachusetts Mentoring Partnership was closely involved in all aspects of the program. For that reason, the program was able to handle staff turnover and budgetary constraints. In 2000, the National Mentoring Partnership awarded the Boston site a matching grant to help the site offset the administrative costs of running the program. In return, Boston recruited an additional 16 participants. Of the original 20 participants, 12 have graduated from high school and attended vocational schools and two- and four-year colleges.
Detroit (Joy of Jesus): Detroit PATHWAYS struggled from its inception. The local organization charged with managing the program, Joy of Jesus, experienced severe financial and administrative difficulties. As a result, a program manager departed. The program was inactive for more than two years, during which Joy of Jesus lost track of most of the participants. In 1998, 1999 and 2000 the National Mentoring Partnership and Joy of Jesus made attempts to locate the participants via phone calls and certified letters. Only one of the original 20 was located and upon graduation was given a financial reward for past involvement. The rest were formally terminated from the program in 2000.
Roosevelt, N.Y. (Memorial Youth Outreach Council): The Long Island program in Roosevelt worked through the Memorial Youth Outreach Council, a church-based youth-serving organization, for five years. Its accomplishments were credited to the active involvement of the program manager and his close working relationship with oversight committee members and the executive director of the Long Island Mentoring Partnership. In 1999 the project received a minigrant from the National Mentoring Partnership to enhance its entrepreneurial component. Under the guidance of an oversight committee member, the participants created a printing business. To generate income, the business owned and operated by PATHWAYS participants designed and printed flyers, business cards, programs and invitations for other organizations and businesses. The other part of the business focused on writing and distributing a quarterly community newsletter: Pathways To Success. The publication focused on issues directly related to the lives of the youth in their communities. Other activities focused on community service, including biweekly trips to a local geriatric center and participation in food drives. A matching grant to offset administrative costs was awarded to the Long Island site in 2000. Since then, the site has recruited an additional eight participants. When the grant ended, Long Island had graduated six participants. All active participants were expected to graduate from high school by 2005.
Los Angeles (Big Sisters of Los Angeles, Community for Education Foundation's Overcoming Obstacles and Junior Achievement of Southern California): Each organization focused on one particular component of the PATHWAYS program for the 20 young women who participated. The entrepreneurial training component was provided through the Junior Achievement's Success Skills 2000 curriculum and concluded with participants' creating and incorporating their own business. Local women business owners were periodically invited to speak to the group and participate in panel discussions about their experiences as entrepreneurs. The participants also performed a community service project with their mentors at a homeless shelter. Staff turnover became an issue in the final two years, but by then nearly all of the participants had graduated from high school. In 1999, 16 participants graduated from the program, leaving one to graduate in 2000. In the 1999/2000 academic year, she dropped out of school and attended several alternative schools or programs. During that transition, Big Sisters lost all contact with her.
New York (East Harlem Tutorial Program): Similar to Atlanta, participants in New York were part of a much larger program: the Tutorial Internship Program of the East Harlem Tutorial Program. The East Harlem project offers after-school programming five days a week. PATHWAYS participants met twice monthly as a group but also could participate in daily Tutorial Internship Program activities and workshops. Over the years, life skills workshops have centered on four main themes: career development, academic achievement, human sexuality and health. Because the East Harlem Tutorial Program never had a formal entrepreneurial training curriculum, staff relied on local minority business owners and business school students to make presentations and lead workshop discussions. Along with on-site mentoring and tutoring, many students participated in a mentoring program at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., an investment management and research firm. As part of the PATHWAYS entrepreneurial component, participants began a T-shirt business with the help of an outside consultant. The East Harlem Tutorial Program sponsored college trips to Boston and the Washington and Virginia areas. Of the original 20 participants, 12 graduated from high school and four of them have also graduated from college. At the end of the grant, there were 13 participants, with the last three set to graduate in 2005.
Omaha, Neb. (ProPal Plus Mentoring Program at Omaha Job Clearinghouse Omaha's local school-to-career initiative of Metropolitan Community College in Omaha): Omaha participants attended meetings about life skills and entrepreneurial possibilities twice monthly. Topics centered on issues involving health, careers, academic achievement and starting a business. The students started a business called The Mix, a monthly social event for Omaha teens. The students held three events, including two teen dances. They also participated in a neighborhood cleanup day, a tour of two minority-owned businesses and etiquette practice and training for restaurant dining. In seven years, there was only one staff change, and that occurred in the first years of the program. In 1999 the National Mentoring Partnership awarded Omaha PATHWAYS a minigrant to bolster its entrepreneurial component. Since 1993, Omaha PATHWAYS has graduated 15 youth. Immediately following graduation, Omaha recruited 15 new participants and accepted a participant who'd relocated from the Philadelphia PATHWAYS program. All are scheduled to graduate by 2004.
Philadelphia (Big Sisters of Philadelphia): Philadelphia PATHWAYS began in 1993 as a collaborative effort between the Greater Philadelphia Mentoring Partnership and Big Sisters of Philadelphia. Fifteen participating youth attended life skills and entrepreneurial workshops on a monthly basis. One of the advisory committee members held a workshop on personal finances, and Big Sisters offered workshops on computers, time management and interviewing skills. Organized field trips and outings supplemented those workshops. PATHWAYS participants took a trip to the Philadelphia Stock Exchange and participated in a citywide youth stock market game. They met one-on-one with African-American entrepreneurs as part of a Dare to Dream Big Symposium held at Drexel University. Participants also engaged in community service projects twice yearly. In the last three years of the program, Big Sisters went through significant staff turnover, and as a result, the quality of the program diminished. In the 1998/99 school year, only five participants remained in the program (the other 15 had previously graduated), and all were poised to graduate that year. Staff turnover halted the program for most of that year, and communication between participants and Big Sisters ceased. After repeated efforts by the National Mentoring Partnership and Big Sisters, only one participant was reached; she was scheduled to graduate in June 2001.
Pittsburgh (Big Brothers Big Sisters, East End Cooperative Ministries and Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania): In Pittsburgh a consortium of agencies playing equal roles administered PATHWAYS. The 20 participants met once a month for life skills and entrepreneurial-training workshops. Topics included goal setting, time and money management, SAT and college preparation, health issues and volunteerism. The group engaged in three community service projects a year, including neighborhood cleanup days and organizing area food drives for the needy. At the end of the grant, one participant had graduated from the program. The other 19 were scheduled to graduate by 2005.
Richmond, Va. (Richmond Mentoring Partnership and Richmond chapters of the YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and Junior Achievement): Despite efforts by the National Mentoring Partnership and the Richmond PATHWAYS consortium, the program has gone through many periods of staff turnover, starting with dissolution of the Richmond Mentoring Partnership, the organization providing the leadership and overall guidance of the effort. That dissolution led to disruption of the program and disengagement of the participants and other consortia members. Overall, most of the turnover occurred within Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the agency responsible for making and keeping the mentor matches and handling all of the administrative tasks related to the program. At the height of the program, participants met twice a month for life skills and entrepreneurship training. The group managed an investment club, which involved researching public companies, tracking stocks, electing officers, making voluntary contributions, and investing in companies. By the end of the grant, three participants had graduated from high school and the last participant was expected to graduate in 2001.
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
Dyer D. Examining the Progress of the PATHWAYS Initiative: Preliminary Outcomes. Washington, D.C., 2001.
Lerman R and Dyer D. Examining the Progress of the PATHWAYS Initiative: A Follow-Up Implementation Study. Washington, D.C., 1999.
Lerman R and Dyer D. Implementation Analysis of the Early Phase of the PATHWAYS Initiative. Washington, D.C., 1997.
PATHWAYS Initiative Operations Manual. Alexandria, Va.: National Mentoring Partnership, 1995.
Youth Entrepreneurship: Tools for Economic Readiness. Alexandria, Va.: National Mentoring Partnership, 1996.
Trailblazers. Alexandria, Va.: National Mentoring Partnership. Three issues published in 1998. One issue published in 1999. About 175 copies mailed per issue.
"The National Mentoring Partnership PATHWAYS Initiative Conference," April 3, 1997, Washington, D.C. About 1520 people attended from participating PATHWAYS programs.
"PATHWAYS Initiative Youth Entrepreneurship Mini-Conference," September 29, 1999, Washington, D.C. About 1520 people attended from participating PATHWAYS programs.
Report prepared by: Susan G. Parker
Reviewed by: Richard Camer
Reviewed by: Karyn Feiden
Program Officer: Michael Beachler
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