Lyndon Town School Entered 5th Year of PROSPER

ProsperthumbLYNDON- The Lyndon Town School is completing their fifth year in taking part in the PROSPER Program. PROSPER, which stands for Promoting-School-community-university-Partnerships to Enhance Resilience is a program geared toward supporting middle school students and their families to build stronger relationships and prevent early drug and alcohol use.


Anthony Willey, the team's co-leader, explains the program as, "a model on how you deliver these two types of evidence-based programs that are within the community that have all kinds of data and research that have all these positive outcomes."

The PROSPER Program first came to the Town School in 2012 when the University of Vermont's Extension program reached out to the school. Amy Gale, principal at the school, says, "they came to us, they felt our school was a good match for the program and they presented it to us, and we liked what we heard."

The program is broken up into two parts, the first being an optional after-school program for sixth grade students and their parents called the "Strengthening Families Program". The program happens in the fall once a week for seven weeks. Suzanne Hubbard participated in the program this past fall and said her and her daughter decided to take part after hearing about it at school orientation. "My daughter Megan wanted to do the program. She had heard that it was a good program from her friends." The program offers a free dinner for families in order to help break down barriers, something Hubbard appreciated. "It was really good for working parents and we get to eat with our child and eat as a family."

After dinner, the students and parents are broken into separate groups with trained facilitators and go to workshops. Hubbard says she enjoyed the parent session because of learning from other parents. "I liked the interactions with the parents, and how they talked about the issues you face as a parent when raising a teenager." Gale says that is a comment she gets from many. "Parents get to sit with other parents that they might not know socially but they get to know because they are in the program together and they get to hear other parents' ideas and frustrations, and ways of dealing with things and just get to share their love for their kids and also their common struggles they face with young teenagers."

Hubbard says she felt that the separate student session was beneficial for the kids because they learned about what their parents do for them. "They talked about some things that children really aren't aware of what parents have to deal with." She says the facilitators talked to students about finances and other responsibilities parents have on a daily basis.

Gale says coming to the program is beneficial for all families because it "gives them that one on one time with that child, especially with families that have multiple kids. It's seven weeks of time where you know you're going to have that chunk in the evening to work on your relationship with that kid."

The second part of the PROSPER program is the "Life Skills" class. This class is taught to all seventh-grade students throughout the year. Life Skills is taught during their Allied Arts period and Mollie Falk, the middle school guidance counselor teaches the class. Falk says the class goes over one subject a day and that some subjects blend better into the next than some. "We start on self-image and really defining how kids see themselves and what interactions and situations help them define their self-image and looking at where self-image comes from." The class then dives into personal topics like decision making and substance abuse, alcohol, smoking, and marijuana. "We talk about a lot of common myths and realities that are related to those subjects."

The class goes into social skills lessons, "we talk about how kids cope with anxiety and stress, and it relates nicely back to the conversations we've had earlier in class around the smoking and alcohol because we're looking at healthy coping skills and strategies to decreasing anxiety."

Falk says the reality of it all is why her students are so engaged. "I think because it's so prevalent for them in their own lives. They have a lot of experience around it or they hear people talking about, so they have an interest in those topics."

She says the class is a mix of teacher led instruction and small group work, "it's a huge discussion base in the curriculum where kids can hear from each other. To have them working with partners or in small groups. They have a workbook that's part of the Life Skills curriculum, so they have time to do work independently." Falk says the workbooks not only allow for independent work but work as a follow up to more group discussion.

The opiate epidemic is a reason the school tries so hard to share the importance of the program with families and students. "It is so important right now in recognizing the huge opiate epidemic. There's a direct connection with the types of skills and experiences that both the families and the youth are having with these programs. The outcomes are delayed first time use or no first-time use" says Willey.

As educators, they feel these programs allow their students to have the confidence to talk about difficult topics. Falk says, "it opens the door to have a conversation to talk about something that is almost taboo to talk about."

The facilitators of the program are friendly faces to everyone and have made an impact for everyone involved. "Our facilitators are teachers from the school itself, which just makes sense. That's why we've had a higher outcome with attendance" says Willey.

Falk says she enjoys teaching the Life Skills class because it gives her an opportunity to know her students better outside her normal role as school counselor. "It's nice to build a relationship with a student in other ways, where I might see students individually or in groups to address social or emotional concerns or personal stuff with kids. Having them in class is a different feeling, it's an opportunity to build a connection with students I haven't seen as much."

Gale says that delivering the program to its fullest potential is a reason it's done so well at the school. "One of the things the research says about the effects of the program when you're delivering it with fidelity is when if not every family participates in it, when you continue to have a certain percentage who participate, at some point you have a critical mass of students and families who have been through this program and they are effecting others who may not have had a part in the program." She says there are positive effects that result from students and families participating.

The Lyndon Town School believes in the benefits in the program and are seeing it in the school, they're seeing the relationships between students and families build stronger and stronger throughout every class.

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