Ponaganset High School’s Asset Building Program Sponsored by CAST

Ponaganset High School’s Asset Building Program Sponsored by CAST
STARS and Youth to Youth programs
Program Focus: 
Youth Asset Building

In this profile, students in Ponaganset High School’s Youth to Youth and STARS programs along with their faculty advisors and school administrator discuss the integration of youth-driven, asset focused substance abuse prevention and mental health promotion at the school.

CAST (Citizens and Students Acting Together) and Ponaganset High School (PHS) have partnered to integrate an Asset Building* framework into the ongoing programs at Ponaganset High School.  This profile highlights two student groups who are instrumental to Asset Building. Youth to Youth is a extracurricular group of students that focuses on bringing External Asset programming to the student body and STARS is a student group that works with 9th grade students during school hours to build Internal Assets.

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One of Youth to Youth’s “Join the Majority” Eight Posters

The students in Youth to Youth and STARS work to build community at PHS by providing social outlets that are positive, drug-free, and most importantly, fun.

Youth to Youth has sponsored hiking trips, skiing trips, white-water rafting trips and are working to have an overnight at the school; however the students seemed most excited about what they had been able to institutionalize in the school.

“We have the Join the Majority campaign. 7 out 10 students do not use substances and we want to applaud the Ponanganset student body for this great thing. We have made posters, t-shirts and bracelets.  It really gets people talking.  A woman stopped me the other day to ask me what my t-shirt meant and I was proud to tell her about Youth to Youth and PHS.”

STARS students head into 9th grade classrooms to work with the students through discussions and activities.  “We do a lot with bullying prevention, self esteem, team-building, dating violence prevention, integrity- stuff you want to see in yourself and the people around you.  We work on the Internal Assets.”

“Whenever you go into a class, you are always going to have a few kids that give you a hard time and don’t pay attention, but for every ten, there are three that really do pay attention and grab something from it.  If it helps those three, it is worth it.”

While the student groups approach Asset Building in different ways, students from both groups became involved with Asset Building as a way to support their classmates and build community at PHS.

A student from Youth to Youth,”started because I wanted to be a part of something bigger than just me.  I think it is important that people, especially teens, have something to keep them away from self-destruction.”  Another student mentioned a transformation that he became aware of as he became more involved with Youth to Youth,

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STARS and Youth to Youth’s Balloon Structure Contest Collaboration

“My experience is that Youth to Youth is a resource for substance abuse prevention, but it is not just that- it is a way to help peers get through whatever they need to get through. Youth to Youth is not just ‘anti-drug’ or ‘anti-alcohol’; it is ‘anti-anything that brings anyone down’.”

Another student captured the personal benefit to participating in the programs. “My sister was in STARS and said a lot of great things about it. When she was going through something at home that no one really knew about that she didn’t want to talk about, it really helped her to talk to younger people about having a positive attitude because she couldn’t help but bring a little bit of that positivity back to herself.”

The youth leaders “know how important it is to have something positive in your life- something to look forward to.  I want everyone to have that.”

“You can make an impact and people look up to you.  You have to make a promise to yourself and everyone else that you are going to set a good example for people to follow.  The school community is really reliant on what they see and how they act.”

In addition to student support, the CAST and PHS partnership has received positive feedback from teachers and administrators alike. David Estes, Principal at PHS, shared,

“the success of the asset building…relied on CAST’s ability to work with what’s already happening at the school…an existing infrastructure.”

They worked adjacent to one another within the school during the day. Student leaders participated in a retreat which allowed the youth to bond, have purpose and come back to lead activities and host asset building speakers for the school as a whole. School-wide initiatives allow students to connect to one another and increase opportunities to work as teams and serve as leaders for their peers.  Linda Bucci, a teacher at PHS and staff leader of the STARS program, reported,

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Students in the STARS Program and the STARS advisor, Linda Bucci

STARS had historically worked as mentors, with a focus on teambuilding. Now, the group has been trained and has an understanding of the Asset Building framework and how to integrate assets into existing work. Ms. Becky Walsh, PHS Educator and Youth to Youth advisor, believes that opportunities to participate in activities outside of school, like white water rafting, help build self-esteem. Asset Building goes “beyond drug prevention…it focuses on…building up the whole person.”

At the end of the day, Asset Building is about celebrating the positive, within an individual and within a community. CAST and PHS have built a strong community and school partnership as well as student, teacher and administrator buy-in to ensure the focus on assets is sustainable and remains relevant for young people.

Lorraine Kaul, C.A.S.T. Coordinator stated. “We selected the Developmental Asset™ framework to assure that the good things that are happening are working at optimal capacity, are evidenced based, and can sustain beyond the life of our current partnership grant.”  PHS and C.A.S.T. work as a collaborative team in promoting health and youth empowerment.

Together we support, synchronize and integrate the “good” that is already happening in the school. We recognize that both students and staff at all levels are already working beyond the scope of their role in supporting healthy development of PHS students. PHS is definitely a “We care school!”

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*Over the last 20 years, the 40 Developmental Assets framework has been one of the strongest evidence-based and science-based prevention strategies.  Data have consistently shown that the more Developmental Assets children and youth from all backgrounds acquire the more likely they are to succeed in school and become happy and healthy adults.

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