A Peer Group Approach to Building Life Skills
Reconnecting Youth is a school-based prevention program for students ages 14-19 years that teaches skills to build resiliency against risk factors and control early signs of substance abuse and emotional distress. RY targets youth who demonstrate poor school achievement and high potential for school dropout. Eligible students must have either (1) fewer than the average number of credits earned for all students in their grade level at their school, high absenteeism, and a significant drop in grades during the prior semester or (2) a record of dropping out of school. Potential participants are identified using a school's computer records or are referred by school personnel if they show signs of any of the above risk factors. Eligible students may show signs of multiple problem behaviors, such as substance abuse, aggression, depression, or suicidal ideation.
RY also incorporates several social support mechanisms for participating youth: social and school bonding activities to improve teens' relationships and increase their repertoire of safe, healthy activities; development of a crisis response plan detailing the school system's suicide prevention approaches; and parent involvement, including active parental consent for their teen's participation and ongoing support of their teen's RY goals.
The course curriculum is taught by an RY Leader, a member of the school staff or partnering agency who has abilities as a "natural helper," has healthy self-esteem, is motivated to work with high-risk youth, and is willing to comply with implementation requirements.