Anyone remember the demand that youth “just say no” to drugs and the related Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program? The campaigns started in the 198o's with Nancy Reagan's efforts. Decades later, years of controlled studies have long discredited these misguided attempts to influence youth in meaningful ways.
Recently, Scientific American reviewed those studies and the failure of the "just say no" approach. Article authors also provided a list of elements, identified by psychologists and epidemiologists, found in successful programs. When supported by those key elements, children and youth can learn practical, real-life skills which help them navigate harmful influences. At LexingtonUnited, we were struck by those descriptions of successful youth program elements—we noted that they precisely match our own training and goals.
According to Scientific American, "the most effective youth programs:
-"involve substantial amounts of interaction between instructors and students
-"teach students the social skills they need
-"give students opportunities to practice those skills—for example, by asking students to play roles on both sides of a conversation—while instructors coach them about what to say and do
-"unfold during many sessions—ideally, over several years (probably because they provide students with lessons that are reinforced over time, as children mature and encounter different environments)." *
When LexingtonUnited trainers teach children cooperative games and use role plays, we’re creating small temporary communities that model workable nonviolent models and provide safe places for children to practice cooperation and problem solving.
During the winter break, our summer camp graduates and LexingtonUnited trainers led cooperative game sessions every day at East 7th St. Kids Center (participants pictured at right and below), and during the school year we’ll be there every week. In just the few weeks of regular interaction, we are already seeing an improved climate, and are looking forward to helping to model, and thus cultivate, a culture of respect.
Our children and youth want to be positive forces for good in their world. They are are more likely to be successful when they are provided the tools to reach creative resolutions to everyday conflicts that are a natural part of human interaction. LexingtonUnited trainers are dedicated to providing those tools. We'll be posting details about our upcoming Spring Break Camp for middle school students soon! Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to get updated information as soon as it's available.
(author credit: Gail Koehler is a lead trainer at LexingtonUnited. A version of this article will appear in the February 2014 issue of Peaceways newsletter, a publication of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice [CKCPJ]. LexingtonUnited is an initiative of CKCPJ.)