In one classroom, an 11-year-old girl blurts out that she is afraid to drive with her mother because her mother is drunk most of the time. In anoterh classroom, 12 7th-graders are busily writing three things they like about each classmate in an exercise in giving--and receiving--peer support. In a third classroom, children are talking about how hard it is to say "no" to their friends.
The children are students in the Philadelphia public schools who are participating in Project PRIDE, a primary prevention program. They are doing exercises that build self-esteem, learning how to resist peer pressure and gaining strength for the difficult years of adolescence and early adulthood.
In many ways this program is similar to drug and alcohol prevention programs offered in many urban areas around the country. But Project PRIDE is unique because, for 16 years, it has continuously presented primary prevention to pre-adolescent children in the Philadelphia schools. It has survived.
This is the story of survival in an alien environment. It is, indeed, a blueprint for survival which I hope will give other valuable programs tools to help them survive in a difficult climate.
Project PRIDE (Positive Results In Drug Education) began as a response to the drug emergency of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Kids were abusing drugs. They were failing in school, getting in trouble with the juvenile justice system and destroying the hopes society--and their families--had for them.
In 1969, a private agency in Philadelphia, the Association for Jewish Children--now the Jewis Family and Children's Agency of Philadelphia--designed a "drug prevention" program and received permission from the School District of Philadelphia to present it in one elementary school with a large Jewish population. In 1972, a grant from the city of Philadelphia enabled Project PRIDE to expand to two of the city's eight school districts. No longer a program for white, middle-class children, Project PRIDE now shifted its focus and designed a prevention program that would give more children in this large, diverse urban school district strengths that would keep them from self-destructive behavior. In 1980, the School District asked Project PRIDE to expand its program to all eight districts and, in addition, asked the city's drug and alcohol funding agency, the Coordinating Office of Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs, to fund the city-wide program.
Today we continue to be welcomed in the schools of Philadelphia, although the effects of primary …