The RIDGE Project’s youth program provides positive character development, traditional values and life skills education through our TYRO Rites Of Passage (ROP) program to youth in Ohio’s schools and detention centers. This program was originally developed by National Family Life and Education Center. We work to establish young leaders who can stand up against the negative influences, peer pressures and low expectations that exist for young people in society today. Youth leadership development is essential in creating a positive youth culture.
The RIDGE Project's prevention services focus on youth through character development and risk avoidance programs as part of our overall effort to stabilize marriages and families. The RIDGE is the lead fiscal agent for the Ohio Adolescent Health Center collaborative which provides sexual risk avoidance education across the state. The PRYDE Mentoring Academy program, a TYRO R.O.P. facilitator will work directly with our youth our the Rites Of Passage (ROP) curriculum.
ROP is an evidence based method which helps youth transition into healthy, productive adults. We teach goal setting, leadership development, drug/;alcohol abuse resistance, sexual risk avoidance. ROP is designed to be easily implemented as a year-long program in our program, and can be adapted to meet the unique needs of youth in our community. The RIDGE project has presented this curriculum in various settings including in-school, after school and community based venues since 2002.
Role of the Participant:
The role of the participant is to participate in all activities and to reflect on their learning experiences. They will need to abide by the rules and meet the expectations as future leaders.
Participants are expected to respect each other’s opinions, which include allowing each other to express their views and concerns.
Youth Empowerment and Development
Youth empowerment is a process of human growth and development and a framework for youth services (Edginton & deOlivera, 1995). The youth empowerment approach promotes greater participation and involvement of youth in the public affairs of the community. Youth are not viewed as community problems, but as community assets and resources (Florida Tobacco Clearinghouse, 1999).
Through empowerment, youth are provided with opportunities to develop the competencies they need to become successful contributors to their communities (Pittman & Wright, 1991). Youth are empowered when they feel they have choices in life, when they are aware of the implications of their choices, when they make informed decisions freely, when they engage in action based on their informed decision, and when they become accountable for the consequences of their 22 actions (Morris, 1998). Youth who are focused on achievement work toward goals and avoid behaviors that would prevent attaining their goals (Hirschi, T., 1969).
Youth have identified the following factors that influence their feelings of empowerment: non-authoritarian adult leadership, being able to experience and exercise power, receiving education and training, participating in critical analysis of issues, experiencing an environment of safety, closeness and appreciation, being able to honestly express opinions and emotions, accepting diversity, developing a voice, and being able to take action (DiBenedetto, 1992). The following key elements are essential for effective youth development programs: a comprehensive strategy with a clear mission and goals; committed, caring, professional leadership; youth-centered activities in youth-accessible facilities; culturally competent and diverse programs; youth ownership and involvement, and a positive focus including all youth (National Youth Development Information Center, 2000).
A 2010 study by the Applied Research Center, Miami University (Ohio) of the RIDGE Project's ROP program found that 93% of students who were engaged in the curriculum and stated a desire to abstain from sexual activity indicated on a 6 month follow-up survey that they had in fact been abstinent. This compares to a national average from an on-line report from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of only 65% of students reporting that they been abstinent over a similar period.
The Miami University study went on to state that The RIDGE Project's ROP program yielded "statistically significant gains" among participants including measurable change in their "behavioral intentions regarding abstinence and knowledge of the negative consequences of sexual activity before marriage, risk of sexual activity after alcohol/drug use and perceptions of teen pregnancy."
Youth Drugs and Alcohol
Research into risk and protective factors indicates that strengthening families, improving parenting skills, and helping families to establish strong, consistent norms about alcohol and other drug use can help prevent substance abuse, including underage drinking, as well as violence and other related problems. Drug prevention programs that concentrate on self-esteem, personal efficacy, decision-making and communication skills – rather than addressing the effects of the substances alone – not only potentially reduce an individual's likelihood to use and abuse substances but also their likelihood to be involved in other risky behaviors such as unprotected sexual encounters (Donnelly, Joseph, 2002)