There are many challenges facing youth and their families today, and although efforts are made to help them, most have limited success. When youth begin engaging in “risky” behaviors, such as substance use, it can lead to serious problems, not only for the youth involved and their families, but also for their community and society. There is good news though. There are programs out there that have been proven to decrease risky youth behaviors, enhance positive youth development, and strengthen families. And since resources are limited, it only makes sense to use programs that we know work.
Effectively delivering these evidence-based programs year after year requires a level of human and financial resources that would be difficult for any one agency or organization to sustain. This is why, in 2002, West Perry formed a team of volunteers representing a number of local youth-serving entities to take on this task. This group of individuals, known as the PROSPER Team, is led by Becky Kaucher, a representative from Perry County Extension, and is co-led by Renee LeDonne from the West Perry School District. The West Perry PROSPER Team includes representatives from Perry Human Services, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, as well as high school teens, a middle school guidance counselor, a sixth grade teacher, a school nurse, and a retired teacher/administrator.
What the West Perry PROSPER Team does for the community
The team is relatively small compared to traditional “big-tent” coalitions so that it can focus its efforts on helping youth make good choices and become responsible citizens. Each year the PROSPER Team plans and implements two evidence-based programs. The Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 (SFP: 10-14) is offered out-of-school to 6th graders and their parents or caregivers. The PROSPER Team also works very closely with the school to provide Project ALERT to 7th graders.
Because of the PROSPER Team and its supporters, these programs have been making a difference in the lives of West Perry youth and families for over a year.
When asked to describe the most valuable thing they learned from participating in the SFP: 10-14, parent participants said:
"Spend more time together—so we can respect each other, bond and laugh and have fun together."
“Try to see things from my youth’s point of view.”
When asked to describe the most valuable thing they learned from participating in the SFP: 10-14, youth participants said:
“Not to give up on your goals and keep trying until you reach them.”
“How to handle peer pressure.”
“How to respect my parents.”