Youth often engage in risky behaviors. They may use substances as well as get suspended from school, drop out of school, attack or assault others or get arrested. They may fail to realize their full potential and may fail to learn the life skills necessary to positively contribute to their communities and society. This in turn affects communities in various ways including:
- an unprepared and/or unreliable future workforce
- more residents becoming victims of crime
- substantial cost associated with treatment and adjudication
- depressed economic growth and development
- decreased community satisfaction and quality of life
Extension has been addressing this issue since 2001 by partnering with schools and communities to implement with high quality evidence based prevention programs as part of the PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience(PROSPER) project. PROSPER programs have been rigorously tested and are designed to produce positive outcomes for youth including higher academic success, higher levels of school engagement, less hostility and aggression, less delinquency, lower levels of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of alcohol and substance use. The prevention programs teach skills and attitudes that foster improved family life and parent-child communication and provide students with skills for planning, problem solving, and peer resistance against problem behaviors. Studies have shown that these protective factors help youth avoid substance use and risk-taking behaviors.
Teams of individuals representing school districts, communities and Penn State University work together to plan, implement and sustain the evidence-based programs. Each PROSPER team implements a family-based program conducted out-of-school and an in-school program taught by a trained teacher.
Prevention programs that work are being delivered with quality, and are producing measurable benefits in communities across the Commonwealth. PROSPER is effective in developing resilient youth and strengthening families for healthier communities in Pennsylvania.