Strengthening the Bonds of Chicano Youth (El Proyecto de Nuestra Juventud) is a comprehensive, multilevel, community-based, and culturally appropriate program designed to meet the prevention needs of rural Chicano youth in Central Arizona who demonstrate high-risk characteristics of substance abuse. The program is rooted in a family-oriented approach that is based on Mexican-American culture, values, and principles. The project was conceived and implemented by the Pinal Hispanic Council, a minority nonprofit organization based in Eloy, Arizona.
The target population served by the project included 450 high-risk youth (323 female, 127 male) in three age groups (9–11 years old, 12–14 years old, and 15–16 years old), who were residents of low-income housing and students at the elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. Availability of alcohol and drugs, attitudes favorable to drug use, negative peer influences, and poor family management were the risk factors used for referral to the project interventions. During the project, 330 families and 60 service providers were reached.
Based on the theoretical framework of Hawkins and Catalano, the interventions addressed four life domains: family, individual/peer, school, and neighborhood/community. The project uses a combination of culturally appropriate interventions for youth and families. Family interventions include camps (campamentos) and informal talks (platicas). Youth interventions include peer support groups and workshops. Community interventions include a homework center, a mural project, and a theatre project.
The project also included the following interventions:
The evaluation indicated that the project succeeded in improving family communication and bonding. Youths and families reported increased communication, trust, and a sense of belonging and bonding. Another significant finding was an increase in awareness of substance abuse issues and a decrease in substance abuse. Increased family communication and bonding had a significant positive impact in reducing potential substance abuse by the children.
The major significant findings include the following:
National Gang Center: Promising program
Ralph Varela, C.M.S.W.
Pinal Hispanic Council
712 North Main Street
Eloy, AZ 85231–2037
Phone: (520) 466-7765
Varela, Ralph. 2001. Cultural Competent Prevention Program for At-Risk Chicano Youth. Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration/Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (SAMHSA/CSAP) Report. Washington, DC: SAMHSA, CSAP, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.