What are Best Friends and Best Men? • Best Friends and Best Men are in-school character development programs for adolescent girls and boys. • Our programs emphasize to adolescents the benefits of abstaining from sex until marriage, drugs, alcohol, and violence. • Best Friends and Best Men are youth development programs for girls and boys that foster self-respect through self-control.
Across the Country Nationally, there are nearly 4,000 girls in Best Friends, over 800 High School Diamond Girls, 1,500 Best Men boys, and 200 High School Best Men Leadership students.
The Love Connection: Substance Abuse and Sexual Activity • According to the CASA study, children who use illegal drugs or alcohol are 700 percent more likely to have sex. • Research from Child Trends confirms the connection: one in every four teenagers combines sex and substance abuse. • Half of all teen girls who became pregnant were drinking before the intercourse that led to the pregnancy.
What Makes Our Model Unique?Sound Program Development • developmental learning construct • field-tested curriculum • school connectedness • positive peer groups • longevity and intensity • substance abuse component • fitness and cultural activities
What the Research Shows “Adolescents involved in community learning and classroom activities are less likely to be sexually active as teens not involved in such programs.” Programs that combine “a focus on youth development (including activities like educational mentoring, sports, or the performing arts)” have a “strong impact on the frequency of sex... however, effective programs in this area are intensiveand long-term.” –Child Trends, 2003
The Social Learning Constructs • BANDURAfound that young people learn directly through education and indirectly by observing the behavior of others. • PIAGETdiscovered that children cannot recognize the consequences of their actions until they’ve reached the Formal Operations Stage.
Field-Tested Curriculum Covering: • Friendship • Love & Dating • Marriage • Self-Respect • Decision-Making • Drug Abuse • Alcohol Abuse • Physical Fitness & Nutrition • AIDS & STDs
7 Program Components • In-School Curriculum Sessions • Teacher-Mentors • Weekly Fitness Classes • Role Model Speakers • Community Service • Cultural Events • Annual Recognition Ceremony
The ‘Peer’ Factor “Instead of softening children’s allegiance to peer groups,Best Friends tries to turn it into a force for individual improvement.” --Kay Hymowitz The Public Interest 2003
Longevity and Intensity Short-term programs never create long-term change. Lasting change has never been cheaper... ...Our participants receive at least 110 contact hours each year for $148 per student per year (or $1.34/hour). Who wouldn’t rather pay that than the high social costs of premarital sex?
What Works in Adolescent Development? • Creating positive peer groups • Viewing teens as “whole people” • Engaging young people and making it “fun” • Starting early and sustaining the effort • Thinking positively about teens • Encouraging parental relationships and support • Evaluating the program OFTEN
How Do We Know Our Program Works? • The students themselves tell us. • Through anonymous pre- and post-program surveys, we track the behavior of students from the beginning of the school year to the end.
Positive Results Over the past 10 years, teen birth rates have declined dramatically in Washington, DC. Source: Levine, Susan, “Teen Pregnancy, Birth Rates Plummet Across D.C. Region.” Washington Post, October 29, 2007.
Positive Results Also over the past 10 years, teen sexual activity has declined significantly in Washington, DC. Source: Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Centers for Disease Control.
2006-2007 Success Washington D.C. Best Friends and Best Men middle school data compared to their peers on the 2007 YRBS (Centers of Disease Control Youth Risk Behavior Survey) risk indicators:
Best Friends Is Good News! • Of girls who were sexually active at the start of the program year, 53% became abstinent. • Of girls who were using drugs at the start of the program year, 56% became drug-free. • Of girls who were drinking at the start of the program year, 48% became alcohol-free.
Best Friends Is Good News! “there is a generally strong and consistent pattern of higher standardized test scores by Best Friends and Best Men, compared to their non-participating peers.” • Peter Maier, Center for Urban Initiative and Research University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee
Best Friends Is Good News! “after entering middle school, when the number of OSS days are expected to go up, the females who joined Best Friends did not increase their OSS days to the extent of their peer group.” Charlotte, North Carolina
“Have you noticed a positive difference in your student’s behavior since joining Best Friends or Best Men?”
“Have you noticed a positive difference in your student’s academic achievement since joining Best Friends or Best Men?”
What are we up against?GANGS & VIOLENCE • 5 D.C. gang-related shootings of students in three months alone. • There are now 800,000 gang members nationally. • Gang members in Charlotte, NC now number 1,200. • 53%of our Best Men boys report that there are gangs in their schools. • Of our Best Friends girls, 20% say they’ve missed a day or more of school for fear of their safety. • 90% of Diamond Girls witnessed a fight on school grounds.
“Make Music Not Madness” • Everyone who works with adolescents is aware that music influences students’ attitudes and behavior. We’ve discovered that the promotion of risk behavior in music is a primary concern. • Our goal is to use Best Friends and Best Men as role models for their fellow students—helping them say no to premarital sex and yes to positive choices.
Music To Our Ears: The MMNM Survey Results Of 2,794 students surveyed in 8 D.C. Schools: • When asked, “Does the music you listen to influence your mood or attitude?” 64% said yes. • When asked, “Do you believe that some music is positive and some music is negative?” 87% said yes. • When asked, “Did ‘Make Music Not Madness’ cause you to reconsider the music you listen to?” 66% said yes.
We believe that if we give our children our best, they will surely respond with their best.