Washington D.C., January 6, 2016 — Mentor Foundation USA is the recipient of a prestigious grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation that will directly support the research efforts of an innovative new substance misuse prevention program in Columbia County, Hudson Valley, NY, that builds on the power of positive peer-to-peer messaging and peer driven community initiatives.

7 January 2016 | News

The research will measure how Counter Marketing Prevention through positive peer-to-peer messaging can help offset the negative messages that youth are influenced by on a daily basis. Counter Marketing Prevention uses commercial marketing tactics to combat negative media-influences, increase positive health messages, and reduce the prevalence of substance misuse in the state and its communities.

In this project, called Shattering the Myths 2.0, Mentor Foundation USA together with George Washington University will design, develop, and evaluate youth-centric messages about prevention that establish an appealing brand identity specifically designed to counteract the effects of positive adolescent social norms about substance use. Recent decriminalization and legalization of marijuana in some states may have increased positive social norms about marijuana and other drug use. Shattering the Myths messages will promote the benefits of prevention behaviors and will be delivered through innovative in-person activities and youth-led social media disseminated through social networks (i.e., social media and mobile phones).

“Engaging participants in health interventions is a critical success factor. In the new program, youth will create their own messages and share them on social media. We will evaluate how this may improve their engagement and prevention outcomes,” explains W. Douglas Evans, Ph.D. Professor of Prevention and Community Health & Global Health, The George Washington University, Milken Institute School of Public Health. Adding that: “New technologies including social media and mobile phones offer tremendous potential to expand the reach and effectiveness of public health programs. Shattering the Myths will be a novel effort to design and rigorously test a systematic intervention for prevention driven by social media.”

Since the fall, over 1,300 high school students in Columbia County, NY, have been engaged in this groundbreaking peer-to-peer interactive drug prevention program. By focusing on the innate talents and strengths that young people possess, they are empowered to become their own advocates for staying drug–free. The program, which is funded by the Rip Van Winkle Foundation, is involving high school students in Germantown HS, Taconic Hills HS and Ichabod Crane HS.

A key part of the Shattering the Myth program is our Youth Ambassador Network to continue the spreading the facts about drugs and alcohol to their peers. Each school has appointed their own Youth Ambassadors who have received leadership- and social media training along with a comprehensive tool kit to implement Change Projects with their peers. “This programming is so important because it inspires and motivates youth to become their own advocates for drug-prevention by allowing them to dispel myths and make educated choices,” says Gunilla Girardo, president and CEO of Mentor Foundation USA. Adding that: “Our vision is a nation where young people are empowered to use scientific facts about drugs and alcohol to make healthy and positive choices. The truth is that young people are NOT getting the facts about the dangers of drugs, inhibiting their motivation for positive choices.”

In a short period of time, the impact and success of the program can already be seen among the students and community:

“The Shattering the Myths team has created an opportunity for dialogue among our students, staff and parents about the facts of drug misuse. Our newly formed Youth Ambassador Team is inspired to develop innovative ways to empower our students to make positive and healthy choices and to become their own advocates for staying drug-free. We look forward to developing a network of support within our school and community to foster a positive and nurturing environment that encourages our students to live healthy lifestyles,” said Craig Shull, Principal, Ichabod Crane High School

“The youth ambassador leadership training helped me understand how a small group of students can come together to make a big difference in our school and community,” says one Germantown student.

“As a Member of the Youth Ambassador Network my hope is that everyone realizes that if they are lost, there is hope.” – Meredith, Student, Ichabod Crane High School

About Mentor Foundation USA
Our mission is to prevent drug abuse among youth while helping them identify and pursue their goals. We view drug prevention and the success of our youth as a collective civil responsibility. Therefore, we partner with the business community, government agencies, schools, and parents to create healthy and productive pathways for youth. Since 2010 Mentor Foundation USA has reached more than 140,000 youth across the United States. Mentor Foundation USA is an affiliate of Mentor International, founded in 1994 by Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden and the World Health Organization.

About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by international business pioneer Conrad N. Hilton, who founded Hilton Hotels and left his fortune to help the world’s disadvantaged and vulnerable people. The Foundation currently conducts strategic initiatives in six priority areas: providing safe water, ending chronic homelessness, preventing substance use, helping children affected by HIV and AIDS, supporting transition-age youth in foster care, and extending Conrad Hilton’s support for the work of Catholic Sisters. In addition, following selection by an independent international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to a nonprofit organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. From its inception, the Foundation has awarded more than $1 billion in grants, distributing $100 million in the U.S. and around the world in 2014. The Foundation’s current assets are approximately $2.5 billion. For more information, please visit: