Prevention Connection Program Spotlight: Naugatuck Youth Services
A notable example of a program that has used data effectively is Naugatuck Youth Services, Inc. Step Up Naugy (SUN) Prevention Coalition was recently awarded a Drug Free Community Grant. Through their efforts, SUN will continue to work to reduce substance abuse among youth and adults and address factors in the community through prevention initiatives.
Naugatuck Youth Services conducted surveys and used the information to establish and strengthen collaboration among communities, public and private non-profit agencies as well as federal, state, local, and tribal governments.
The agency administered the Search Institute's Attitudes & Behaviors: A Profile of Student Life survey to all 7-12 grade students in the Naugatuck, Connecticut school district. Available funding through their Regional Action Council specifically for communities that had not previously done any large-scale data collection made it possible. A survey team was comprised of key stakeholders from the public schools that included the Superintendent, school board members, and educators at the middle school and high school levels along with the Mayor, Chief of Police and youth division of the police department, board members from the Youth Services Bureau, and staff from the local YMCA, as well as some youth representation . Creating this team that understood the purpose of the project was critical to its success.
According to project staff, the survey is lengthy and expensive. It was completed during a school advisory period as a paper version (not online version), allowing logistics to be slightly less complicated than they might have been if computers were needed for every student. The survey’s importance and anonymity were communicated in advance. A total of 1,600 students completed it. Only 50 youth had parents who chose not to participate.
The survey results were reviewed with the survey team first. This was followed by a day-long "youth survey analysis retreat" which was a structured day attended by a cross-section (in terms of gender, interest, demographics, and academic levels) of 7-12 graders recommended by their school administrators and teachers. During the day, students learned about the Developmental Assets through group activities and games, and then split into small groups each with 1-2 trained volunteer adult facilitators, who led them through a prioritization process of ranking the strengths of the community and their major concerns. After a group voting activity to choose the top ten priority assets, students broke into self-selected groups to create action plans for addressing the top priorities.
Naugatuck Youth Services administered the survey once and plans to do so again in May 2018. It has been able to use this survey analysis to inform all of its programming, and has been valuable data for program development and evaluation. Most of the young people who participated in the survey remember the "sex, drugs and rock & roll" survey and are happy to discuss it.
Two major programs came out of the youth action plans from the retreat. One is a Peer Mentoring program, specifically for boys with the goal of improving self-esteem, and a youth leadership council known as the Asset Ambassadors that works for positive change in the community, specifically to help develop assets for younger kids.
Naugatuck Youth Services is to be commended for their willingness to engage in this comprehensive survey process. Their intent to conduct another large-scale data collection next year will follow much of the same process. They will be able to compare data across grade levels, and especially to analyze the results, and any changes, developments and improvements with a group of youth, hopefully some who participated last time as well.