Penn State program expands service to Pennsylvania youth

August 24, 2007

University Park, Pa. -- Several Pennsylvania foundations and community organizations are supporting the expansion of an innovative Penn State Cooperative Extension-sponsored initiative that helps middle- and high-school students avoid substance abuse and behavioral problems.

Known as PROSPER (PROmoting School-university-community Partnerships to Enhance Resilience), the program brings together teams of Penn State prevention scientists, Penn State Cooperative Extension educators, local school administrators, students, health and social service providers and community leaders to develop community partnerships that strengthen families. In its first five years, the project reached about 10,000 youth in 28 communities throughout Pennsylvania and Iowa.

The following grants will allow the establishment of PROSPER programs in communities in 10 Pennsylvania counties:

-- The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) will provide a four-year, $624,000 grant for PROSPER to expand into two school districts in Cameron and Elk counties. Catherine Straub, a youth development/4-H extension educator in Cameron County, will lead this initiative.

-- Paul Webster, youth development extension educator in Potter and McKean counties, collaborated with the Guidance Center of McKean County and received a $1 million PCCD grant to expand PROSPER into five additional school districts in McKean County.

-- A $42,000 grant from the Blue Ribbon Foundation of Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania will bring PROSPER programming to six communities in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties, which is being spearheaded by Chris Orrson, Luzerne County extension director.

-- The Valley Youth House in Northampton County has agreed to a $110,000 grant that has allowed Denise Continenza, family and consumer sciences extension educator in Lehigh County, to assist in providing PROSPER programs to families in Northampton and Lehigh Counties.

PROSPER is a novel model for bringing evidence-based prevention programs to schools and communities with the goal of strengthening families and building youth skills for avoiding substance use and other problem behaviors. Program coordinators Claudia Mincemoyer, associate professor of agricultural and extension education, and Daniel Perkins, professor of family and youth resiliency, said the grants are a vote of confidence from communities in need of programs that work.

"Youth who participated in PROSPER programs report that their parents are using more consistent and less harsh discipline," according to Mincemoyer. "Youth substance abuse and other problem behaviors are a concern in many communities, and our research indicates that PROSPER is making a difference. Youth also report that their time together as a family has increased and improved."

Perkins explained, "Research shows that when kids have a strong family connection and proper discipline, they are better able to resist risky behaviors that can get them in trouble later on. Middle-school youth in PROSPER communities are developing the skills and support they will need for high school, when peer-pressure to experiment with alcohol and drugs is at its highest levels."

PROSPER was first introduced in school districts in Bradford, Carbondale, Jim Thorpe, Littlestown, Salisbury, Elliotsburg and Kingston. For additional information about PROSPER, contact the Penn State Cooperative Extension Office in one of the counties mentioned or the project team liaisons: Daniel Perkins at (814) 865-6988 or Claudia Mincemoyer at (814) 863-7851.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009