The Community Action Commission sponsors Across Ages as an intergenerational mentoring program working to increase the protective factors for high risk youth in order to prevent, reduce, or delay the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and the problems associated with such use.
The Community Action Commission (CAC) operates Across Ages to help build youths’ sense of personal responsibility for themselves, their families and their community. The program features the pairing of adult mentors 45 and older with 10-14 year-old adolescents. The mentors serve as role models who help the children and teens improve their grades, make better lifestyle decisions, and learn to cope with peer pressure.
Specific program objectives are:
To increase knowledge of health and substance abuse and to foster healthy attitudes, intentions and behavior among targeted youth
To improve academic performance, school attendance, behavior, and attitudes toward school
To strengthen relationships with adults and peers
To teach problem-solving and decision-making skills
Across Ages is among a series of programs developed by Temple University’s Intergenerational Center. The program is now featured on Women's Encore. The program is classified as a Model Program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – see SAMHSA Overview and SAMHSA Descriptive Information.
Youth Club Specialists staff CAC’s program and works with 15 pairs of youth and mentors each. Across Ages targets children and youth at high risk for substance abuse, dropping out of school, and antisocial behavior. Referrals are received from the juvenile justice system, schools, and churches. Progress notes are maintained to track progress toward short- and long-term goals. Youth who are mandated to participate by the court will have the attendant violation removed from their record upon successful completion of the program. Participants are terminated from the program if they repeatedly fail to attend mandatory trainings, community services, life skills or family nights.
Both the youth and parent/guardian are required to review and sign Across Ages Program Agreements in order to participate. An Emergency Contact Information and Release Form and a Photo Release Form are also maintained on file for each student. A Parent Questionnaire is used to gain information concerning students and their families. Referrals are made to offer assistance, if appropriate, from other CAC programs.
Across Ages provides benefits to both volunteers and participants. Program activities are designed to strengthen the bond between adults and youth and to provide opportunities for community involvement. Across Ages incorporates four components:
Mentoring – Adults, age 45 and over, are recruited, screened, trained, and receive supervision and support from program staff. CAC uses the United Way as one helpful source for mentors – i.e. through an article in the United Way’s volunteer newsletter. A Mentor Application Form must be completed to be considered for the program. Volunteers are also required to clear both Child Abuse History and Criminal Record checks prior to acceptance in the program.
Roles and responsibilities of mentors are described in a Position Description and a Mentor Volunteer Activities Policy. Each mentor is required to participate in program orientation once they are accepted in the program. Orientation occurs through two group sessions and one-on-one meetings. Monthly mentoring meetings are also held at a local restaurant and cover topics such as:
- Program Objectives and Outcomes
- Characteristics of a Good Mentor
- Helping Youth and Mentors Work Together - Mentoring Benefits
Each mentor is matched with a student with whom they spend a minimum of two hours a week in one-on-one contact for at least one year. Mentors and youth share various types of activities together, such as help with school projects, field trips, sporting or cultural events, and community service activities. An evaluation form is completed for event.
Community Service – Students spend 1-2 hour per week performing community service work. Students keep a journal of their community service experiences and discuss their experiences in group in sessions.
Social Competence Training – Across Ages uses the Social Problem Solving Module of the Social Competence Promotion Program for Young Adolescents. This curriculum includes 27 sessions of 40 minutes each on six topic areas: stress management, self-esteem, problem solving, substance knowledge, health information, and social networks.
- Family Activities – Across Ages includes a monthly event to provide opportunities for interaction between youth, family members (parents and siblings), and mentors. These events are usually held on weekends and they include meals along with a program activity.
Records are maintained on mentor activities with each youth, results in school including attendance, grades, behavior, and any incidents involving the juvenile justice system through tracking of social security numbers by the courts. Sign-In Sheets are maintained to record attendance at each program event.
Funding support for Across Ages has included local government, Area Agency on Aging, and Weed and Seed.
Additional insights can be accessed through an Across Ages Case Study from the National Collaboration for Youth (NCY). NCY is a useful source for information regarding best practices in the field of youth development.
Finally, further resources related to mentoring are available through Virtual CAP Resource Information on Mentoring Program Resources including:
National Mentoring Partnership – Why Mentoring ... Get Involved ... Program Resources ... Our Work
icouldbe.org connects students with mentors from various careers representing over 200 professions
CAC reports the following Across Ages highlights for 2005-2006:
46 youth and 29 mentors participated in the program
None of the participants entered the juvenile justice system
87% maintained or improved academic performance
80% maintained or improved school attendance
Other goals met included improved behavior and avoiding problems with drug and alcohol abuse
A profile of an evaluation of Across Ages summarized by the Harvard Family Research Project features data from a study conducted by Temple University of over 500 Across Ages students including the following findings:
Academic – The mentoring group demonstrated significantly fewer days absent from school than a curriculum-only group and a control group.
Prevention – Most students reported little or no substance abuse, so there was relatively little room for improvement as measured by pre-post differences. However, the mentoring group reported significantly better reactions to situations involving drug use than did the control group.
Youth Development – The mentoring group demonstrated significantly better attitudes toward school, future, and elders than did the control group or curriculum group.
Renée Buchy, Social Service Director
717.232.9757 ext. 111