Youth Leadership Project (YLP)

State: IL Type: Promising Practice Year: 2018

The DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) is based in Wheaton, Illinois and has six public health centers across the county and delivers services in schools, homes, and other community sites. The mission of DCHD is to promote physical and emotional health; prevent illness, injury and disability; protect health from environmental risk factors, and strive to assure the provision of accessible, quality service for DuPage County residents. DCHD has been serving DuPage County residents for over 70 years. DCHD services are delivered via five service units: Environmental Health Services, Behavioral Health Services, Communicable Disease and Epidemiology, Public Health Services, and Client Access. Approximately 67.5 percent of residents in DuPage County are White, non-Hispanic or Latino; 14.3 percent are Hispanic or Latino; 11.6 percent are Asian; 5.3 percent are black or African American; and less than one percent are American Indian or Alaska Native or Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (U.S. Census, 2015). A county-wide community health assessment led by the Health Department in 2014, identified substance use and mental health among the top health priorities facing DuPage. Data from the 2016 Illinois Youth Survey (IYS), further indicated that youth substance use and mental health issues were of some concern in DuPage. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drug use are among the top substances reported by DuPage County youth in the past 30 days. Mental health issues are also of concern among DuPage County youth, according to data from the 2016 IYS. In DuPage, 22% of 8th graders, 29% of 10th graders and 29% of 12th graders report experiencing a depressive episode over the past year. These rates are over double the national standard of 11.4%. The Youth Leadership Project (YLP) was developed to address the above public health issues. The YLP is a partnership of the DuPage County Health Department's drug prevention coalition-Prevention Leadership Team, the DuPage County Juvenile Justice Council, and the public health department at Benedictine University. These groups came together around a common goal: to reduce youth violence and substance use and promote public health in vulnerable communities throughout DuPage County. This goal is being achieved by the YLP, with aims to increase youth civic engagement and leadership through the delivery of Lions Quest, an evidence-based curriculum that teaches life and citizenship skills, to youth attending after school programs within several Neighborhood Resource Centers (NRCs) in DuPage County. The Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence curriculum has solid roots in youth development, violence and substance abuse prevention research and includes social emotional learning skills proven to positively impact youth academic performance and behavior. In addition to the Lion's Quest curriculum, our community partners developed a toolkit to accompany the curriculum. This toolkit provides interns and NRC's with tracking templates and pre and posttests to evaluate the effectiveness of the curriculum and utilization of the toolkit, as well as provide ideas for community service projects and parent nights, which makes the Youth Leadership Project more comprehensive. In the project's pilot year (beginning October 2016), graduate level interns from the Masters of Public Health Program at Benedictine University delivered the Lions Quest curriculum in collaboration with NRC leadership and staff. For a ten-week period, interns worked with their NRC site supervisor to prepare and teach the lessons as well as evaluate the impact of the lessons on youth knowledge, skills, and behaviors. Based on the credit and time requirements of the internship, a new intern will transition into the facilitator role every 10 weeks throughout the course of the program to facilitate the program's sustainability. According to pre/post test data, there has been an average of an 11% knowledge increase among youth participants and youth have participated in multiple civic engagement projects in their communities. Since the inception of this program, the YLP has expanded from the initial three communities to seven communities now participating. DuPage County Health Department's Website: DuPage County Health Department's Drug Prevention Coalition:
According to the 2016 Illinois Youth Survey, alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and prescription drug use are among the top substances reported by DuPage County middle school and high school aged youth in the past 30 days and DuPage County youth reporting a depressive episode within the last year are over double the national standards. The Youth Leadership Project was developed to address this public health issue among youth who attend DuPage County Neighborhood Resource Centers (NRC's). NRC's were chosen as the target population for this project because of their access to at-risk middle and high school-aged youth, and for their flexibility in scheduling, to allow them to adopt a new curriculum. In the past, lifeskills curriculums, including Lions Quest, that is the chosen curriculum incorporated in the Youth Leadership Project, has attempted to implement within schools. This has proven challenging considering schools have less flexibility and strict standards for what they can and have to teach during the school day. Currently, the YLP is being implemented in seven of nine established NRC's and is also being implemented in a local library who conducts an after-school group, totaling eight community sites throughout DuPage. This current practice can be considered a creative use of an existing tool, that tool being the evidenced-based Lions Quest curriculum that is incorporated into the YLP Toolkit. Lions Quest has twenty-years of research behind the program's pedagogy and content, as well as studies that demonstrate that when implemented with fidelity, Lions Quest is evidence-based and proven effective. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) has designated Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence and Skills for Action programs Select SEL” and Lions Quest is listed on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices (NREPP), a service of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The YLP incorporates this best-practice, lifeskills curriculum, and takes it a step further by developing a toolkit that encourage users to take the lessons learned and put them into practice by doing community service and advocacy projects, conducting parent informational nights and including evaluation materials to ensure the program is generating positive outcomes among the youth participating.
The Youth Leadership Project (YLP) was developed to reduce youth violence and substance use, increase mental health and promote civic engagement in vulnerable communities throughout DuPage County. After data analysis from the countywide health assessment and the Illinois youth survey, it was determined that substance use and mental health were leading priorities among youth in DuPage. The LHD then conducted a community scan for likeminded groups with common goals, to partner with and develop a prevention strategy to address the public health issues. This led to a collaboration among the Health Department's countywide drug prevention coalition-Prevention Leadership Team and the county Juvenile Justice Council. The prevention strategy agreed upon was the Youth Leadership Project, which would include a best practice lifeskills based curriculum and an enhancement toolkit to accompany the curriculum. The toolkit would be comprised of evaluation tools, civic engagement and community betterment projects, parent nights and orientation checklists for facilitators of the program. Research indicated that instilling lifeskills like stress management and decision making, along with enhancing protective factors like community engagement and connectedness to community in youth, would lead to a reduction in substance use and an increase in positive mental health. The community partners met regularly and spent some time researching curriculums and landed on Lions Quest for numerous reasons. One, it was proven to reduce youth substance use and violence, as well as encourage civic engagement. Two, it was developed by the civic organization, Lions Clubs, which could lead to some local support and funding from local Lions Clubs chapters, helping with the program sustainability. Once the curriculum was chosen, the idea was presented to DuPage Neighborhood Resource Centers (NRC's). NRC's were the target audience because of their access to at-risk middle and high school-aged youth, and for their flexibility in scheduling, to allow them to adopt a new curriculum. The group attended a NRC collaboration meeting to present the idea of the project and the toolkit with the idea of getting feedback from the centers and adjusting the program to fit their needs. The YLP was met with great excitement from NRC's however, NRC staff would need facilitators to help implement the program. This led to obtaining an additional community partner, the Public Health program and Benedictine University. Benedictine agreed to make the facilitation of the YLP an option for their public health students internship requirement. Based on the credit and time requirements of the internship, a new intern will transition into the facilitator role every 10 weeks throughout the course of the program to facilitate the program's sustainability. The pilot program kicked off in September of 2016 and included three NRC sites in DuPage County communities. Today, the program has expanded to eight after school sites and is proving to be sustainable and showing exciting outcomes with an average of 11% knowledge increase and multiple youth-led, community engagement projects. The initial costs of this program included purchasing the curriculum materials and providing training to facilitators on the curriculum and classroom management skills. These costs were shared by the collaborating partners. Additionally, in-kind costs are incurred by tracking the hours spent by Masters-level interns who facilitate the program within the NRC's. The in-kind rate is set at $25.75 an hour and each internship lasts 240 hours, resulting in almost $6,000 every ten weeks.
The goal of the Youth Leadership Project (YLP) is to reduce youth violence and substance use, increase mental health and promote civic engagement in vulnerable communities throughout DuPage County. One objective of the YLP is to educate at risk youth about important lifeskills that are not necessarily being taught during the school day, such as decision making, self-esteem and risk taking. These skills are proven protective factors when it comes to substance use and mental health issues. Currently, seven of the nine DuPage County Neighborhood Resources are implementing the curriculum and exposing their youth to these important concepts. A second objective of the YLP is to encourage youth to become more civically engaged in their communities and participate in community betterment projects. This type of civic engagement encourages a feeling of community connectedness, another best practice protective factor that results in the prevention of substance use and an increase in mental health. Both objectives have been met to varying extents across all participating Neighborhood Resource Centers. Youth participants in the YLP have conducted multiple community betterment projects such as conducting sticker shock campaigns, an awareness raising campaign targeting adult consumers of alcohol that providing alcohol to minors is wrong, dangerous and illegal. Other projects have included volunteering at various charitable groups like Feed my Starving Children. Primary data sources used to evaluate this program include pre and post test data, which are collected and analyzed by Benedictine interns who facilitate the program. Tracking sheets are also used to track how often the lessons are being taught and how many youths are participating in each lesson. Tracking sheets are also collected whenever the youth conduct a civic engagement project or participate in a community betterment project. These tracking logs are completed by the interns and turned into DCHD staff for reporting and record keeping. Other data sources include speaking with NRC staff and interns who facilitate the program and conducting satisfaction surveys, to obtain feedback on how the program is running within the NRC. Staff and intern feedback was beneficial when evaluating the program. Example feedback included; The YLP is a Great opportunity for personal growth and skill development such as leadership, confidence, public speaking and communication” and, every day I was at the center, the children would ask if we were doing YLP that day and if the answer was no, they were disappointed.” Outcome measures include the number of NRC participating (seven of nine total sites), the number of youth participating (over 300 youth participating), number of lessons being taught an completed by the youth (this varies by NRC as some sites are going faster than others, but most sites have completed at least two units of the curriculum), and the number of civic engagement and community betterment projects being conducted (again, this varies by site but we have tracking logs for two civic engagement projects.). An additional outcome measure is satisfaction survey results from NRC staff and interns. (All sites surveyed were either very satisfied or satisfied with the YLP). After initial data collection, few modifications have had to be made to this program. NRC staff, interns and youth participants are all satisfied with the program.
Through the YLP, DuPage County has learned that cross-sector community collaboration is key to the success and the sustainability of a program. By involving a local university, who sees benefit in making this project a valid internship experience for their interns, the program can supply free facilitators to these after school groups, helping to sustain this program. By also partnering with other community prevention groups with likeminded goals such as juvenile justice, substance use prevention and mental health promotion, the YLP can secure multiple funding streams from these various grants, furthering the sustainability of this program. Additionally, because the YLP utilizes the Lion Quest curriculum, which is created by the International Lions Clubs, the YLP has secured another important partner in Lions Clubs and local chapters of these civic groups, further aiding in future sustainability of the program. A cost/benefit analysis was conducted early in the development of this program. The initial training for intern facilitators and NRC staff cost $3,500 and the curriculum materials cost $2,000. These products were paid for by cost sharing with our above-mentioned partners. The match costs for this program generates $5,900 per intern ($24.75/hr X 240 hour internship). The Youth Leadership Project is still supported by all partnership and cost sharing continues to occur. The next step will be to present this project to local lions club chapters in hopes they will see benefit in supporting the costs of this program (curriculum materials) going forward. By securing sustainable funding sources while ensuring continued support and commitment from stakeholders, the YLP program is well equipped to sustain its current success and build upon this success in the future.
Colleague in my LHD