Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 1. Council on Accreditation Innovative Practices Award

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1 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 1 Council on Accreditation Innovative Practices Award ICAN Peer Leadership Innovative Recruitment & Retention Practices Christy McClendon ICAN

2 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 2 Abstract ICAN s Peer Leadership program is comprised of youth ages from a community ridden with gang activity and extreme generational poverty. ICAN s Peer Leadership Program utilizes innovative strategies for recruiting and retaining teens in positive activities that promote community change. ICAN s Peer Leaders are recruited through direct community partnerships, creative partnerships with schools and street outreach through a partnership with the Chandler Police Department Gang Unit. Through our partnerships, ICAN is able to reach out to youth who would traditionally be lost in most school and after school programs. ICAN youth are contacted and visited monthly by ICAN staff and a Police representative who ensure that the youth are supported, safe and attending programs. Once involved in the program the teens are tasked with learning leadership competencies and applying those skills through monthly community service projects. In 2006, this group of youth, working with key stakeholders, organized the Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse to create and implement a community development strategy to address underage drinking. Through this community development process, the ICAN Peer Leaders have collaborated with local merchants to remove alcohol signage, provided free training to merchants on carding and educated the community about the risks of underage drinking. Once the teens become involved in these meaningful activities and have the opportunity to be positive change agents in their community, retention becomes inevitable.

3 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 3 ICAN PEER LEADERSHIP INNOVATIVE RECRUITMENT & RETENTION PRACTICES For over four years, ICAN has been providing the teen Peer Leadership program to youth ages to build key leadership and social competencies. On average, ICAN serves between teens in this program each year, with typical daily attendance in programs being between kids. These teens come from a community with higher than normal risks associated with drug/alcohol/tobacco use and violence, where illegal substance are readily available and favorable attitudes concerning their use are prevalent. Gang activity is on the rise, further increasing community violence and favorable attitudes toward violent activity. ICAN teens are also faced with negative influences from their peers who are also using drugs, alcohol and tobacco and are engaging in violent and often criminal activity. As a result, there is a strong need for youth programs targeted to the prevention of substance abuse and violence. Risk factors to address include: 1. Favorable attitudes toward drug use as evidenced by a community needs assessment implemented by ICAN annually identifying that 62.4% of youth in the service area report using alcohol during their lifetime, of which 32.9% report having used in the last 30 days. 2. Interaction with anti-social peers as evidenced by a community needs assessment implemented by ICAN annually identifying that 18.4% of youth report being drunk or high at school, which indicates an increased likelihood of engagement with peers who use drugs or alcohol. 3. Community violence as evidenced by growing gang issues reported by the Chandler Police Department, identifying that gang profiles have increased from an average of 16 per month in 2007 to over 22 per month in 2009, which further increases the opportunities for youth to engage in violent/delinquent behaviors. Through the ICAN Peer Leadership Program, teens in this community are engaged in activities that build life skills, leadership competencies, and engage the youth in community service projects for positive environmental change in their community. What makes the program unique

4 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 4 is its research-based emphasis on youth development. The program is also teen led and driven, thus encouraging the participation and ownership of teen participants in the program. Key topics covered in the Peer Leadership program include, but are not limited to: Teamwork and Teambuilding, Vision and Goal Setting, Conflict Resolution, Positive Persuasion Getting your point across, Peer Mediation, Cultural Heritage and Sensitivity, Change Management Self growth and improvement, Decision Making, and Do s and Don ts of relationship management. Historically, it is very difficult to retain teens in after-school programs like these, which necessitates that ICAN provide a clear and on-going system for recruitment of older youth into the Peer Leadership program. Low teen attendance in after-school programs is common and generally a barrier for most organizations targeting this age group for a variety of reasons. First, teens are much more autonomous and self-select out of programs due to lack of interest and peer pressure to engage in competing after-school activities, both positive and negative in nature. Secondly, teens are no longer in need of immediate day care needs, so the requirement by the parent to attend after-school programs generally fades away. Thirdly, financial constraints pose an on-going challenge for low-income families and in most cases the family funding for after-school programs is made available to younger kids rather than older kids. In spite of these challenges, teens are often the population most in-need of after-school services as they are oftentimes more likely to spend time alone afterschool than their younger counterparts. In addition, studies consistently show that youth left alone between the hours of 3:00pm and 6:00pm are much more likely to engage in juvenile delinquent behaviors during that unsupervised time frame. In addition to the obvious engagement benefits after-school program participation has on teens, there is an additional benefit to academic success and social skill development that must be considered as well. Studies continue to show, according to the Afterschool Alliance, that older youth (teens) who participate in after-school programs are more likely to demonstrate the

5 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 5 following: improved school attendance, improved homework completion, increased standardized test scores, increased socialization and problem solving skills, improved study habits and motivation, as well as lowered risk of dropping out of school. As a result of the above teen engagement challenge, ICAN has a clear and year-long focus on recruitment of this age group, as well as strategies and techniques to maintain those youth who are attracted to the program. Both strategies begin with free programming, as every aspect of ICAN s programs, including the teen Peer Leadership program, are offered free of charge to families to remove financial barriers to success. The second key recruitment technique is community outreach, done by staff at ICAN in collaboration with the Chandler Police Department.This strategy allows ICAN to go out into the community on a monthly basis to reach out to local community members and families in an effort to describe ICAN s programs, how to get involved and answer any questions teens might have. Staff members bring applications with them and make every attempt to sign interested youth up for programs that day to increase the likelihood that they will visit the center and engage in the programs. The third key recruitment strategy is related to community partnerships and referrals. Due to our specific focus area and service population, ICAN has built many critical community partners including, but not limited to: local churches, local businesses, other local youth centers (YMCA, Boys & Girls Club), city departments, local courts, and many others. Through on-going relationship-building with these partners done by assigned ICAN staff members, ICAN is able to bring these critical teen programs to an increased audience of youth. For example, ICAN maintains a strong partnership with the local courts to engage youth completing required community restitution hours in the teen programs offered at the center. Through this partnership, ICAN recruits over 10 new teens each month and is able to retain a considerable number in the Peer Leadership program after completing their required community restitution hours in the volunteer program at ICAN.

6 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 6 Fourthly, ICAN has also forged critical partnerships with the local schools to increase teen participation in the programs. Specifically, ICAN engages principles and other key leadership at the schools in annual Principal and Administrator Roundtables, teacher s meetings, formal presentations, quarterly communications, and informal processes such as providing flyers in the school lobby for parents and school staff to distribute. Also critical is ICAN s commitment to providing transportation to teens in the Peer Leadership program, and all other programs offered at ICAN. This allows ICAN the unique opportunity for an ICAN staff member to be present at the schools at the end of the day to create interest in the program. Lastly, the schools are also an important source for teen referrals. ICAN has also created key recruitment mechanism to attract current members in younger age groups through a transitional leadership program called Leaders in Training. This program helps prepare and excite younger members for the teen Peer Leadership program through use of age-appropriate leadership skill building. Once included in the Peer Leadership program, members are required to create and participate in monthly community service projects that are and continue to be on-going retention mechanisms among youth. Studies also show that teens will be less likely to participate in underage drinking when they have developed leadership and resiliency traits these monthly service projects are an ideal forum for members to gain these critical skills as well. The key community development initiative the Peer Leaders work on is the Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse, founded by ICAN. The Chandler Coalition on Youth Substance Abuse (CCYSA) is a coalition that increases community knowledge on underage substance abuse by promoting social responsibility and community action through awareness building, collaboration, and advocacy. As members on the Coalition, the ICAN Peer Leaders serve an important purpose in driving the mission of the Coalition forward. The teens are responsible for increasing community knowledge on underage drinking through the creation of a strategic plan aimed at creating community change related to the perceptions, norms, and laws

7 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 7 governing youth substance abuse. The teens also have the responsibility to make recommendations and to collaborate with the other Coalition members regarding strategy to carry out the annual strategic plan. The key strategies currently employed by the Coalition and implemented by the ICAN Peer Leaders, include: 1. Alcohol Signage Counting, which serves to decrease pro alcohol messages targeted to youth in the surrounding community. Specifically, the teens are responsible for visiting local merchants to count, measure, and photograph the alcohol signage displayed on each merchant s windows. Based on the current city ordinance concerning alcohol signage, the teens (Peer Leaders) then educate merchants of their standing within that ordinance. 2. Shoulder Tapping, which serves to increase community perception of the laws and norms favorable to underage drinking and to increase community support of the Coalition s prevention efforts. Specifically, the teens are responsible for participating in outreach activities, supervised by ICAN staff and members from the Chandler Police Department. The teens participate by tapping adults outside local merchants to ask them to purchase alcohol for them. Based on their response, the teen then provides them with a flyer that states the consequences of agreeing to purchase alcohol for a minor if they accepted, or thank them for their assistance in building a healthy community if they declined. 3. Covert Underage Buying, which serves to reduce accessibility/availability of alcohol to persons under the age of 21. Specifically, the teens are responsible for participating in outreach activities, in collaboration with the Arizona State Liquor License and Control Board and Chandler Police Department. The teens participate by entering local merchant stores and attempting to purchase alcohol from the clerk. Once the transaction has occurred, undercover representatives from the Arizona

8 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 8 State Liquor License and Control Board site the merchant and request they attend a merchant training on carding procedures offered by ICAN. The Coalition s work, with the help of the ICAN Peer Leaders has achieved significant results in the community, including: 20.9% decrease in alcohol signage in the Chandler Redevelopment Area 72.2% decrease in patrons willing to purchase alcohol for a minor 36% decrease in merchants willing to sell alcohol to a minor Through their work on these and other like community projects, teens are easily retained in the Peer Leadership program. ICAN s Peer Leadership retention goal is to serve an average of unduplicated youth at least three times per week and as a result of teen participation in many community development projects, ICAN rarely misses this target. Through on-going relationship-building between youth and staff, ICAN continues to provide a program that retains youth due to increased empowerment and self-confidence as a result of program participation. In addition, ICAN is also committed to continued outreach with the Chandler Police Department for retention as well as recruitment. On a monthly basis, staff members from ICAN venture into the community to visit the homes of teens in the program to relationship-build and ensure the youth is on the right track for success both in the program and in their personal lives. Oftentimes, this practice can uncover changes in the youth s behaviors and will allow staff the advanced opportunity to proactively engage that youth before they are lost from the program due to external barriers/challenges. Lastly, ICAN also utilizes incentives to retain members in the Peer Leadership program. Research suggests that incentives can motivate participants to become more interested in activities that they might not have been interested in initially, and that incentives can also motivate them to continue their involvement in these activities. Incentives are being used to promote program attendance and to promote a sense of belonging to a program.

9 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 9 As a result of these comprehensive recruitment and retention strategies, the membership in ICAN s Peer Leadership program is strong. The uniqueness and effectiveness of these techniques are further validated by the receipt of the MetLife Innovator Award in late 2009 by ICAN s Peer Leadership program. The MetLife Innovator Award is a national award recognizing noteworthy programs for their efforts to engage and retain older youth (teens) in quality after-school programs, provided by the MetLife Foundation and Afterschool Alliance. Further evidence of the success of these techniques can be shown in personal accomplishments of ICAN teens. For example, Daniel F., age 16, has been attending the ICAN Peer Leadership program for just under a year now. He was recruited into ICAN s programs through the outreach partnership with the Chandler Police Department. Before coming to ICAN, Daniel was struggling to make the right choices, had become a member in a local gang, and had started getting involved in the use of illegal substances in his community. On several occasions, Daniel was referred to ICAN by members of the Chandler Police Department and when he finally gained the confidence to walk through ICAN s doors he became a regular and active participant immediately. ICAN accepted me when no one else would, shared Daniel, I didn t think I had a future when I was on the streets, and if I did, I couldn t see it very clearly. When I came to ICAN, everything changed. In the first few weeks that Daniel participated in the Peer Leadership program at ICAN he began to grow and develop the self-confidence that precedes academic and personal success. He began working with the younger kids on their homework, participating actively in programs and most importantly, Daniel gained a knowledge and awareness of his actions and his role as a leader in the community. In the past year, Daniel has grown tremendously. He has now participated in all the Coalition activities and feels a sense of empowerment and purpose in his fight to curb underage drinking in the community. Daniel has also been recognized, along with his fellow Peer Leaders,

10 Running Head: COUNCIL ON ACCREDITATION, INNOVATIVE PRACTICES AWARD 10 as the Citizens of the Year for the State of Arizona by the National Association of Social Workers, for their efforts to curb underage drinking in the Chandler community. Daniel is a true testament to the success of this program, and a validation of the partnerships that brings youth into ICAN s programs each day. He is a model of hope for other youth as they struggle to make the right decisions and learn to be a leader through programs that empower teens to reach for their future.

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