Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence (SFA) is a comprehensive youth development program that unites educators, parents, and community members to help adolescents develop social skills and competencies for resisting drug use. The program operates based on three specific goals: 1) prevent or significantly delay the initiation of “gateway” (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana) drug use during the study period; 2) reduce the frequency or amount of substances used by those who do initiate use before or during the study period; and 3) prevent or delay the progression to more “advanced” substance use (e.g., binge drinking, regular smoking, and regular marijuana use) or “hard” drug use. In sum, the program strives to promote the development of capable, healthy young people of strong character in the school environment to prevent or delay substance use.
Target Population/Eligibility or Target Sites
The program is designed for schoolwide classroom implementation in grades 6–8 (ages 10–14).
SFA focuses on the development of essential social and emotional competencies, good citizenship skills, strong positive character, skills and attitudes consistent with a drug-free lifestyle, and an ethic of service to others within a caring and consistent environment. Accordingly, program elements focus on building self-esteem and personal responsibility, communicating effectively, making better decisions, resisting social influences and asserting rights, and increasing drug use knowledge and consequences. The learning model employs inquiry, presentation, discussion, group work, guided practice, service learning, and reflection to accomplish the desired outcomes. SFA has a five-component structure for addressing protective factors that promote healthy, safe, and drug-free behaviors and risk factors for reducing substance use, violence, and other high-risk behaviors:
- Classroom curriculum of 102 skill-building lessons. Implementation models range from a minimum 9-week, 40-lesson mini-course to a 3-year program of all 102 lessons; 45-minute lessons are arranged in eight sequential thematic units and a service-learning unit that extends throughout the curriculum.
- Parent and family involvement. Parents and families participate through shared homework assignments, four parent meetings, a book for parents, and direct involvement in school activities.
- Positive school climate. School staff, students, parents, and community members establish a school climate committee to reinforce curriculum themes through schoolwide events.
- Community involvement. School staff, parents, Lions Clubs, and other service organizations participate in training workshops, school climate events, panel discussions, service projects, and parent meetings.
- Professional development. Each implementer must attend an introductory 2- or 3-day workshop to receive program materials.
Ongoing program success requires a school district–level advocate and the district’s acceptance of financial responsibility, an onsite program coordinator, continued support for school staff, and ongoing program evaluation. Funding from Lions Clubs and other sources is vital, as is participation from parents and community members.
The SFA program is designed using social influence and social–cognitive approaches to teach cognitive–behavioral skills to youth—specifically, drug-refusal skills. Accordingly, elements and processes use techniques to strengthen students’ behavioral intentions not to use drugs in the near future, to increase the perceived harm of drug use, to increase the sense of self-efficacy about their ability to refuse drugs, and to decrease perceptions that using drugs makes it easier to fit in. The program is based on the theory that these techniques will enable students to resist peer pressure to use drugs, while simultaneously promoting a more ethical school environment.
10 to 14
Eisen and colleagues (2003) found mixed results among the various outcome measures based on 1-year follow-up data of schools that received Skills for Adolescence (SFA) training in comparison to control schools. Results provided evidence of the program’s effectiveness to reduce alcohol and marijuana use and increase behavioral skills to resist these substances. However, there was a lack of evidence for the program’s ability to reduce tobacco use or other illicit substances.
Reported Alcohol Use
There were no notable differences between SFA and control students in reported lifetime or recent 30-day alcohol use. However, baseline binge drinkers in treatment schools were less likely to report recent binge drinking at the end of eighth grade (27 percent) than students in control schools (37 percent).
Reported Tobacco Use
There were no notable differences between SFA and control students in reported lifetime or recent use of tobacco.
Reported Marijuana Use
SFA students had lower reported rates of lifetime and recent marijuana use relative to control schools, but this difference was not statistically significant.
Reported Other Illicit Substance Use
There were no notable differences between SFA and control students in reported lifetime or recent use of other illicit substances.
Improvements in Resistance Behaviors
SFA students reported significant positive effects on refusal offers of marijuana and alcohol, but not for cigarettes or cocaine. For SFA students, knowledge, awareness, and attitudes about the risks of alcohol and other drug use improved 43 percent. Further, inner city SFA youths had higher expectations for success in school than control students. Lastly, SFA students’ expectations of future use of beer and liquor were significantly lower than those of non-SFA students.
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