Positive Youth Development is a framework that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families. This approach can reduce risky behaviors, improve social and emotional outcomes, and lead to a successful transition to adulthood. Prevention efforts that use a Positive Youth Development framework can address both risk and protective factors in a more balanced and holistic way. This approach draws on the wisdom and strengths of the American Indian and Alaska Native culture and has shown success in decreasing substance abuse among these youth.
The following evidence-based programs and practices of Positive Youth Development for American Indian and Alaska Native youth have been identified:
- Native H.O.P.E.
- Arrowhead Business Group Apache Youth Entrepreneurship Program
- The Healing of the Canoe Project
Positive Youth Development Approaches to Prevention
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one youth development approach to prevention is teaching coping and problem-solving skills through Social and Emotional Learning programs. These programs focus on developing and strengthening communication and problem-solving skills, emotional regulation, conflict resolution, help seeking and coping skills.
A study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago, showed that significant associations exist between Social and Emotional Learning skills in kindergarten and outcomes in education, employment, criminal activity, substance use, and mental health. Youth who participated in SEL programs developed better social-emotional skills, improved academics, and social interactions with their peers. Improvement was also found in their ability to manage stress and depression, and maintain positive attitudes about themselves, school and others.
Positive Youth Development holds significant promise in addressing complex trauma, substance abuse, and suicide. Our most vulnerable youth are counting on us to be those caring adults that lead the way.
- Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing Suicide
- SAMHSA’s Native Connections
- Youth.Gov: American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) Youth
- Youth.Gov: Positive Youth Development