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Woodrock Youth Development Program

Ages 6-14

Rating: Level 3


The Woodrock Youth Development Program (YDP), sponsored by the Philadelphia, Pa.–based Woodrock, Inc., is a school-based program designed to prevent or reduce alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use among at-risk elementary and middle school minority youths and raise their awareness about the dangers of using such substances. YDP also seeks to improve these students’ self-esteem, school attendance, and attitudes toward racial and ethnic diversity and reduce their aggressive attitudes and behaviors.

The program achieves its goals by providing valuable extracurricular activities to engage youth, helping them develop general living and interpersonal skills, and by imparting ATOD–related knowledge and refusal skills. YDP is conceptually grounded in evidence that demonstrates the preventive effects of resistance and cultural competency training, peer mentoring, and family strengthening activities.

The YDP program model comprises three intervention components: 1) education, including human relations and life skills seminars in which role-playing and other simulations relevant to drug use are incorporated, 2) a program of structured alternative extracurricular activities both after school and on weekends, and 3) peer mediation. The program serves African-American, Latino, Asian-American, and white youths ages 6 through 14. Program youths attend public schools in North Philadelphia.


A classic randomized pretest–posttest control group design was used to examine mean changes in scores on seven outcome variables. Before program implementation, classrooms from four North Philadelphia public schools were selected and assigned randomly to either the experimental or control condition. Control group participants completed pretest and posttest measures but did not participate in the YDP program. Each school contained at least one experimental and one control group.

Two cohorts participated in the YDP, one during the 1995 academic year and one during the 1996 academic year. To gain additional statistical power, without adding costs associated with program intervention, about twice as many students were recruited for the control group as for the experimental group. Final sample sizes for the 1995 cohort were 130 for the experimental group and 239 for the control group, for a total of 369. Final sample sizes for the 1996 cohort were 114 experimental subjects and 235 controls, for a total of 349. On the basis of previous research on school-based drug prevention programs, it was anticipated that average program effects, if any, might be modest in magnitude, and it was felt that statistical power should be adequate to detect these effects. Therefore it was planned, if feasible, to combine data from the 2 program years to be studied. After a statistical comparison of the two cohorts revealed little difference between them in demographic characteristic—such as age, race, gender distribution, or school attendance—the two cohorts were combined.


The evaluation offered some evidence that YDP had several prosocial effects on program participants, especially students ages 6–9. These effects were most pronounced in substance abuse attitudes and behavior. The evaluation also revealed that, when compared with the control group, YDP participants evidenced significant decreases in alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use within the last month; decreased lifetime alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use; improved race relations and cultural sensitivity; and improved school attendance. Additional gains were noted in aggression and self-esteem; however, observed changes were not statistically significant.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Poor refusal skills


  • Family history of the problem behavior/Parent criminality
  • Family management problems/Poor parental supervision and/or monitoring
  • Poor family attachment/Bonding


  • Low academic achievement
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school


  • Availability of alcohol and other drugs
  • Availability of firearms
  • Community crime/High crime neighborhood
  • Community instability
  • Economic deprivation/Poverty/Residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood
  • Neighborhood youth in trouble
  • Social and physical disorder/Disorganized neighborhood


  • Association with delinquent and/or aggressive peers
  • Peer alcohol, tobacco, and/or other drug use

Protective Factors


  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school


  • Clear social norms / Policies with sanctions for violations and rewards for compliance
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Rewards for prosocial community involvement
  • Safe environment / Low neighborhood crime


  • Good relationships with peers
  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • SAMHSA: Model Programs


LoSciuto, Leonard, Susan M. Hilbert, Margaretta Fox, Lorraine Porcellini, and Alden Lanphear. 1999. “A 2-Year Evaluation of the Woodrock Youth Development Project.” The Journal of Early Adolescence 19:488–507.


Carol Smith, Executive Director
Woodrock, Inc.
1229 Chestnut Street, Suite M7
Philadelphia, PA 19107–4140
Phone: (215) 231-9810
Fax: (215) 231-9815
Web site: