Three schools: Germantown High School, Ichabod Crane High School, and Taconic Hills High School held not only ‘Youth Rallies’ but also participated in a newly expanded STM 2.0, which included the Youth Ambassador Network (YAN), a team of 7-10 superb student leaders in each high school who volunteered their time and energy to spreading the word about drug prevention in their schools by designing unique school wide change projects. Each Youth Ambassador team was formally trained to use social media effectively to advocate to a youth audience in order to effect change. In the coming academic year, Mentor will be training the Youth Ambassadors using a full-scale version of the aforementioned social media training, courtesy of a research team at the George Washington University from Washington, DC.
In addition to spreading positive peer-to-peer social media messages through their individual networks, the Ambassadors planned and implemented unique Change Projects. The purpose of each project was to spur social change around the culture surrounding substance use in their communities and promote healthy life choices. These Change Projects included a simulation of a drunk driving accident, a “Dream Wall” a forum for students to publically share their future goals and dreams, a 5K fun-run, selfie nations, art contests, drug trivia contest and much more . All Change Projects were specifically targeted toward youth to raise awareness around the issue of drug use and how devastating the consequences can be, but also to demonstrate the positive alternatives to living a drug free life.
With the expanded program, 1,250 students were impacted by our Shattering the Myths rallies and 26 youth ambassadors were trained and recruited to integrate peer-to-peer mentoring programs and activities in their school communities. This wide reach across the high school populations allowed us to make a significant impact in the beliefs of the larger community such as parents, educators and siblings.
This coming fall, an additional Columbia County high school, Hudson City High School, will be joining the Shattering the Myths drugpreventionprogram. This expansion is a result of a very promising first year for the initial participants in the year-long Shattering the Myths program.
The data that Mentor collected at both the beginning and the end of the student’s participation in any given STM rally shows remarkable shifts in the beliefs which youth hold about substance abuse and about their own self-efficacy. For example, at Ichabod Crane High School, at the conclusion of the STM rally there was a 14% increase in those who felt that they were very likely to intervene if a friend was engaging in substance abuse. After that initial spike in positive beliefs, data collected at the conclusion of the students who participated in the entire year-long program in Columbia County high schools demonstrated positive progression in their health beliefs, goal setting and other positive improvements.
Mentor Foundation USA feels strongly that peer-to-peer mentoring is one of the most effective methods for reaching teens and affecting change and is committed to continuing and expanding their efforts in Columbia County and beyond.
Mentor’s use of peer-to-peer mentoring, Shattering the Myths youth rallies, and the ability of Youth Ambassadors to tailor a wide range of activities and programs to the needs of their specific peer community resulted in a multiplied impact that reaches beyond the student body. Mentor expects its peer-to-peer prevention program to continue growing and positively impacting students in Columbia County and beyond and it is safe to say that the inaugural peer-to-peer prevention program went beyond our expectations and was a great success.