Learn to Grow, Inc. of Atlanta received SAMHSA funding to develop a program to mitigate risk from early alcohol and tobacco use. They’ve had direct involvement in the community since 1997 and engage community members to help reduce or prevent alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use among youth and adults.
“We strongly believe and envision that any efforts of prevention of high-risk behavior among youth must be initiated before they are involved in unhealthy lifestyles and/or the criminal justice system (by demonstrating such undesirable behavior); second, a large portion of high-risk behavior is attributable to the socialization and the environment within which young generations grow (since their childhood); and finally, these high-risk behaviors can be rectified with proper and effective intervention strategies geared toward children as well as members of their socio-cultural milieu; i.e., their family members, peers, and the infrastructural environment.”
The above quote is from Learn to Grow’s website. It provides both clarity of purpose and methodology for their effort to create a program to delay the onset of alcohol and tobacco use in their Atlanta community as well as demonstrates an understanding of the challenges to deter youth from engaging in high-risk behaviors.
“The grant we received from SAMHSA, under the STOP Act, enhanced what we were already doing,” said Vince Vandiegriff, Founder of Learn to Grow. “We were already promoting factors to minimize risk.”
“We are looking for sustained change and that happens over time. You have to engage each kid over time and tune into their information mechanism such as using social media, Facebook, and Twitter to stay in touch. The kids created their own website (learntogrow.org), and our kids did presentations and peer-to-peer sessions with other kids.”
“We know we have to listen to our community, not just give them what you think they want to hear. You have to have dedication, to want to want to help, and to understand that change happens over time and have a long-term view to be effective. For those reasons, you always need to be thinking in terms of ‘What is sustainable?’ And you have to have good, dedicated people at the table with you.”
Learn to Grow has a strong commitment to mutual trust, respect, and communication. Their services are aimed at empowering youth and young adults to enhance personal and interpersonal skills related to substance use thereby encouraging critical thinking in the development of healthy attitudes as they grow and mature into adulthood. “When we did a post-test, after running the curricula, we found that the 'knowledge gained' was 90 percent on average. We think that is because we had adaptable curricula, which made it more interesting, and we gave the kids roles to play that made it more engaging and made it work.”
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