Project STRIDE: A Unique Summer Intervention Program for Youth-AtRisk
Keywords:Benefits-Based Management, At-Risk Youth, Rural, SelfPerception, Recreation
AbstractResearch has indicated that healthy self-perceptions are positively correlated to resiliency. Recreation programs have been suggested to provide the necessary tools for fostering positive selfperceptions among children. Project STRIDE was initiated under the auspices of a benefits-based management delivery system. This innovative prescriptive recreation program targeted at-risk youth in a rural community in South Carolina. The program consisted of eight elements: activity processing; problem solving; journal keeping; motivational speakers; sports clinics and aquatics programs; program ownership; original experiences; and awards and opportunities for positive recognition. The purpose of the study was to determine whether a prescriptive benefitsbased summer recreation program could facilitate the development of positive self-perceptions related to academics, athletics, social skills, personal appearance, behavioral conduct and global self-worth. The actual experiences that STRIDE participants were exposed to were aimed specifically at enhancing self-perceptions in each of the six domains. Each program was structured to target different cognitive and affective aspects of the participants' lives. In the analysis, the Project STRIDE group (n=28) was compared to a control group (n=26), and a group exposed to a traditional summer recreation program (n=l6). Results of the analyses showed STRIDE participants to have experienced significantly increased self-perceptions compared to the two other groups on the subscales of scholastic competence, social competence, athletic competence, and personal appearance. The study indicated that positive recreation experiences, that are largely prescriptive in nature, can have a significant impact on children's self-perceptions. Through the development of a positive self-image, children can foster and strengthen those (resiliency) skills necessary to become productive members of society. Project STRIDE offers a refreshing approach to providing meaningful recreational and educational opportunities in the non-school hours. Rural communities in particular have a distinct need for summer programs that can provide youth with activities that are challenging and enriching. Recreation should no longer be considered as purely a diversionary pursuit, but should be accepted for its tremendous catalytic potential for building resiliency. These so called "at-risk" youth have a tremendous surplus of energy, but have greater need for recognition and opportunities to achieve success. Recreation can provide a medium whereby this surplus energy can be deployed constructively rather than destructively. Future research efforts should be encouraged to emphasize both quantitative and qualitative evaluation methodologies to help provide a more accurate picture of the true nature of the recreation experience.
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