More than 2,130 youth, 338 parents and seven Iowa school districts have participated in and seen benefits from PROSPER (Promoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience). PROSPER uses researched-based substance abuse prevention and family-focused parent education programs to enhance parenting skills, improve youth life skills and increase family well-being in communities.
PROSPER is led in Iowa by a partnership between Iowa State University Extension, researchers from the ISU Partnerships in Prevention Science Institute, local school districts and community volunteers. Team members work together in each community to implement family and middle school youth programs that help prevent problem behaviors.
One such program is the Strengthening Families program. Amy and Roger Lowe, of Estherville, have seen the benefits first hand. “I would recommend this program to anyone,” Amy Lowe said.
The Lowes, whose twin children are now in high school, participated in the Strengthening Families program in 2000. “PROSPER’s Strengthening Families program was a great experience for our entire family. It opened up communications with our family and helped us to talk openly about what was going on around us. The program provided helpful suggestions on discipline and making rules that work,” Amy Lowe said.
The program at Estherville is in its fourth year, and Holle Smith, ISU Extension education director for Emmet County, is pleased with the results. “It has been a very rewarding program. People have stopped me on the street and told me how valuable it was to their family,” Smith said.
“As a parent, I liked the one-on-one time with my child that PROSPER’s Strengthening Families program provided,” said Beth Wycoff, a parent and middle school teacher in Estherville. “The program provided the opportunity to initiate family discussion on difficult topics that may have been awkward for families to cover; the kind of discussion where it’s not parents dictating, it’s families making decisions together.”
Wycoff also is involved with PROSPER programming at the Lincoln Central Middle school in Estherville. “Before the PROSPER All-Stars program, we didn’t have a research-based program targeting negative behavior prevention. Programming was more hunt-and-peck, whatever we could find on our own.”
Every student in Estherville’s seventh grade will receive the All Stars curriculum. “I recommend the program,” said Dick Magnuson, Estherville superintendent. “It’s easy to understand and simple for a teacher to implement. Most importantly, it’s research-based. The program provides for gathering and analysis of data.”
JaneAnn Stout, director for ISU Extension to Families, is finding that substance abuse has become a fact of life for many Iowa youth.
“Prevention programs exist that claim to help, but few have the data to back up their claims. Delaying inappropriate use of substances to a later age has been shown to reduce the level of adult dependency,” Stout said. “Prevention programs like PROSPER have been shown to generate savings to society from the prevention of alcohol disorders. The benefit-cost ratio of prevention programs is estimated at a return of $9.60 for each $1 invested.”
PROSPER also is at work in Pennsylvania. Iowa State University and Pennsylvania State University are partnering on a five-year, $20.7 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to conduct PROSPER programs in both states.