Traditionally, programs that sought to prevent young people from engaging in risky behaviors based their programming around cautionary tales and scare tactics. It was believed at the time that lecturing young people about the negative consequences of certain behaviors would be enough to frighten them away. Subsequent programming has focused on education, disseminating facts about negative behaviors like drug use, violence, and truancy to students in an effort to avert those activities. However, recent research shows that these methods are ineffective, and in some cases may actually increase the likelihood of high-risk behaviors. In order to encourage young people to make healthy choices, the focus in prevention programs has shifted to instead engage school and parent communities in supporting youth as they build up the important social and emotional skills that support their mental and physical wellbeing and protect them from engaging in high-risk behavior.
Hallways uses what has been learned from youth development and prevention research in combination with Freedom Institute’s more than 30 years of experience working with the Independent Schools in NYC to develop customized programming for school communities. To help them in this work, Hallways has adopted an evidence-based Strategic Prevention Framework that helps identify and tailor programming that will be most impactful for students and support each school community’s unique needs.
The Strategic Prevention framework consists of five phases. Phase one, the assessment phase, uses surveys, interviews, and observations to determine specific risk and protective factors present within the school community. Phase two includes an analysis of Hallways’ findings and a recommendation of programming, which is based both on the assessment findings and the research literature on what has been found to be effective in helping students gain the target skills. This programming begins with student workshops but can range from faculty trainings and parent meetings to advisory program consultation. In Phase three, Hallways collaborates with school staff to customize the recommended programming. Phase Four includes the implementation of programming (workshops, presentations, etc.), as well as targeted activities to help each school build their capacity to support students moving forward. In the final phase, Phase Five, Hallways staff conducts assessments to measure the impact of their programming and meets with school personnel to evaluate results.
Throughout this process, Hallways staff works closely with each school to ensure that their efforts are tailored to the specific goals, strengths, and needs of a school community. Hallways is built on the belief that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach for supporting young people, and that close collaboration and partnership with schools is the best way to ensure that the needs of their school culture and student body are met.
Trish Farley, LMSW is a Hallways prevention educator and counselor with advanced training in gender justice, anti-racist organizing and violence prevention.