1. Project Venture

Project Venture

Program Goals/Target Population

Project Venture is an outdoor/experiential program that targets at-risk American Indian youth. The program concentrates on American Indian cultural values—such as learning from the natural world, spiritual awareness, family, and respect—to promote healthy, prosocial development. The primary target group is fifth to eighth graders, but it has been adapted and used for older teenagers as well. The program is designed for American Indian communities seeking strategies to prevent alcohol abuse.

The goals of Project Venture are to help youth develop a positive self-concept, effective social and communication skills, a community service ethic, decision-making and problem-solving skills, and self-efficacy. By increasing these skills, the program hopes to build generalized resilience within youths that increases their resistance to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs and prevent other problem behaviors.

Program Activities/Program Theory

Project Venture includes classroom-based and outdoor experiential learning. The classroom-based program content includes problem-solving games and initiatives delivered weekly through a 1-hour class session. School teachers who are interested in the program must be willing to dedicate one class session per week for program activities. A minimum of 20 sessions are delivered throughout a school year by Project Venture staff. Students are recruited from the school-based program to participate in additional afterschool sessions (given once a week) and weekend sessions (given once a month). Participants enter the program primarily through self-selection, although program staff will act on informal referrals and provide extra encouragement for teenagers to sign up.

Afterschool and weekend sessions are more intensive and comprise the outdoor experiential learning component of the program. The outdoor learning is experienced through adventure camps, wilderness treks, and community-oriented service projects. These outings (e.g., hiking, camping, canoeing) revolve around skill-building exercises and challenging activities. Throughout the school year, students and staff work on community service projects that they can complete and that will contribute to community building (involving adult and family participation). Summer activities continue the experiential and community service activities and culminate in a 7- to 10-day leadership camp. After a year of participation in the program, participants are given the opportunity to become “service staff” or peer leaders for subsequent years. Youths who take the opportunity are then given extra training in how to administer the Project Venture program.

Project Venture does not provide a standard drug and alcohol education curriculum. Instead the program uses American Indian cultural values to build a positive environment through thinking activities, speaking and singing, and incorporating traditional folk stories/metaphors to achieve prosocial outcomes. The key components of Project Venture’s approach are the use of community service learning activities and the use of a metaphorical “rite of passage” that builds on traditional ceremonies for coming of age. Other cultural elements consist of a holistic life skills learning approach, community building through intensive and positive peer interaction, role modeling and intergenerational community events, and indirect teaching (storytelling and metaphors) to reflect on activities and process learning.

Intervention ID

11 to 12


Study 1

Composite Substance Use

Carter, Straits, and Hall (2007) found a statistically significant difference between the substance use patterns of treatment and control participants at the 6- and 18-month follow-ups. Treatment youths demonstrated less growth in substance use as measured by the four outcome measures (cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, and other illicit substances) taken together.

Alcohol Use

Looking at the outcome measures separately, there was a significant effect found only for alcohol use. The other substances followed trends similar to alcohol use but were not significant. Both the treatment group and the control group used alcohol. The control group participants increased their alcohol use significantly at the 6- and 18-month follow-ups. The treatment group participants displayed an increase in alcohol use from baseline to the 6-month follow-up, but this level of use was less than that of the control group at the 6-month follow-up. Additionally, the treatment group’s alcohol use plateaued between the 6- and 18-month follow-ups.

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