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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
hours of contact per month, shared interests between the mentor and youth, and shared decision making about activities.
Opportunities to Belong
Healthy development is promoted by fostering a sense of belonging, an area which the Quantum Opportunities Program stressed. Instilling a sense of belonging was at the core of its mission as reflected in their motto, “Once in QOP, always in QOP.” If participants stopped attending activities and disappeared from the program, program staff tracked them down to find out what was wrong, to assure them they were still part of their QOP “family,” and to coax them back to the program. This attitude of refusing to give up on youth was considered by Hahn et al. (1994) to be a crucial component of the program. Although this outreach might have been seen as coercive, evidence from the student evaluations of the program suggest that this was not the case: for three of the four sites evaluated, 78–92 percent of the students thought the program was “very important” and 82–92 percent were “very satisfied” with the program. It is unlikely that students would give these responses if they felt coerced to attend or hassled by unwanted adult attention.
Positive Social Norms
Even when not explicitly stated as a program goal, all of these programs promoted positive social norms and discouraged norms related to the major problem behaviors of concern in these programs. Programs with a community service component—Quantum Opportunities and the Teen Outreach Program—best exemplify this feature. Youth participants were matched with an adult mentor and received classroom-based social problem-solving skills training and participated in community service activities with their mentors. The discussions in school were explicitly designed to support positive social norms among the students participating. In many cases, parents also participated in workshops, to enhance their ability to help their children maintain positive social norms and reject antisocial norms and pressures from peers to participate in problem behaviors. Programs that taught resistance skills also exemplify this feature.