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Lions-Quest Skills for Adolescence

Ages 10-14

Rating: Level 2


Lions-Quest Skills for Adolescence (SFA) is a comprehensive youth development and prevention program designed for schoolwide and classroom implementation in grades 6–8 (ages 10–14). It unites educators, parents, and community members in developing the following skills and competencies in young adolescents: essential social and emotional competencies, good citizenship skills, strong positive character, skills and attitudes consistent with a drug-free lifestyle, and an ethic of service to others within a caring and consistent environment.

The learning model employs inquiry, presentation, discussion, group work, guided practice, service learning, and reflection to accomplish the desired outcomes. The central question for those interested in working with Lions-Quest is: How can a school community best support the development of capable, healthy young people of strong character?

SFA has a five-component structure for addressing protective factors that promote healthy, safe, and drug-free behaviors and risk factors for reducing substance use, violence, and other high-risk behaviors:

  • Classroom curriculum of 102 skill-building lessons. Implementation models range from a minimum 9-week, 40-lesson minicourse to a 3-year program of all 102 lessons; 45-minute lessons are arranged into eight sequential thematic units and a service-learning unit extending throughout the curriculum.
  • Parent and family involvement. Parents and family participate through shared homework assignments, four parent meetings, a book for parents, and direct involvement in school activities.
  • Positive school climate. School staff, students, parents, and community members establish a school climate committee to reinforce curriculum themes through schoolwide events.
  • Community involvement. School staff, parents, Lions Clubs and other service organizations, and youth-serving organizations participate in training workshops, school climate events, panel discussions, service projects, and parent meetings.
  • Professional development. Each implementer must attend an introductory 2- or 3-day workshop to receive program materials.

Ongoing program success requires a school district–level advocate and the district’s acceptance of financial responsibility, an onsite program coordinator, continued support for school staff, and ongoing program evaluation. Funding from Lions Clubs and other sources is key—as is continuing involvement of parents and community members.

Each implementing adult must receive an introductory 2- or 3-day professional development training to receive SFA program materials. An extensive 10-day training of trainers program is available to qualified school districts. Preset regional workshops scheduled by SFA and onsite contract workshops are available.

Participants leave the introductory workshop with the Skills for Adolescence Curriculum Kit consisting of eight thematic units of study in separate booklets: a Program Guide, a Parent Meetings Guide, a Drug Information Guide, Year 2 and Year 3 booster units emphasizing healthy living and drug prevention, a service-learning unit that permeates the entire curriculum, a student book called Changes and Challenges, and a parent book called The Surprising Years—all necessary components and materials to implement the program with high fidelity.


More than 50 studies have been conducted on SFA worldwide. Most significant was the longitudinal study conducted for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) by Dr. Marvin Eisen of the Urban Institute in Washington, DC. In this study, 34 schools from Baltimore, Md.; Detroit, Mich.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Washington, DC (n=7,426 sixth graders, 71 percent of the eligible population) were randomized to conditions to test the hypothesis that SFA is more effective than standard care in deterring and delaying substance use through middle school. One-year posttest data was collected from 6,239 seventh graders (84 percent those eligible). Initiation of “ever” and “recent” use of five substances for baseline nonusers and changes in recent use for baseline were compared, using mixed model regressions to control for school clustering.


The evaluation findings suggest that Lions-Quest Skills for Adolescence succeeded in decreasing substance use and improving behaviors related to protective factors, in addition to other types of outcomes.

Decreases in Substance Use
The results from the NIDA study show that SFA participants had significantly lower self-reported rates of using beer, liquor, and chewing tobacco in the previous month, that SFA students had lower predictions of use of five harmful substances in the next 30 days, and that fewer SFA Hispanic students engaged in lifetime alcohol use, recent alcohol use, and recent binge-drinking than Hispanic students in control schools.

Improvements in Behaviors Related to Protective Factors
For SFA students, knowledge, awareness, and attitudes about the risks of alcohol and other drug use improved 43 percent. Further, innercity SFA youths had higher expectations for success in school than non-SFA students had. SFA students had greater willingness to take responsibility for personal behavior. They made significant improvements on the California Achievement Test in both reading and mathematics. And SFA students’ expectations of future use of beer and liquor were significantly lower than those of non-SFA students.

Other Types of Outcomes
A NIDA study of 34 schools from Detroit, Mich.; Los Angeles, Calif.; and Baltimore, Md./Washington, DC, found that SFA can deter the initiation and monthly use of alcohol and binge-drinking for Hispanics; exposure to a 40-session version of SFA can help deter the initiation of regular cigarette smoking and experimental use of marijuana through the end of the seventh grade and that this effect held across all racial/ethnic groups studied; and SFA can delay the progression to regular cigarette smoking and to experimental marijuana use among students who had initiated regular alcohol use or binge-drinking, but not regular cigarette smoking, by the end of the sixth grade.

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
  • Parental use of physical punishment/Harsh and/or erratic discipline practices


  • Inadequate school climate/Poorly organized and functioning schools/Negative labeling by teachers
  • Negative attitude toward school/Low bonding/Low school attachment/Commitment to school


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

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • Positive / Resilient temperament
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


  • Good relationships with parents / Bonding or attachment to family
  • Opportunities for prosocial family involvement


  • High expectations of students
  • High quality schools / Clear standards and rules
  • Opportunities for prosocial school involvement
  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Strong school motivation / Positive attitude toward school
  • Student bonding (attachment to teachers, belief, commitment)


  • Presence and involvement of caring, supportive adults
  • Prosocial opportunities for participation / Availability of neighborhood resources


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


  • SAMHSA: Model Programs
  • Department of Education
  • NIDA: Preventing Drug Abuse


Eisen, Marvin, Gail L. Zellman, and David M. Murray. 2002. “Evaluating the Lions-Quest Skills for Adolescence: Drug Education Program: 2nd-Year Behavior Outcomes.” Addictive Behaviors 28:883–97.

Quest International. N.d. “Lions-Quest Skills for Adolescence: Report for the U.S. Department of Education Expert Panel on Safe, Disciplined, and Drug-Free Schools.” Unpublished Report. Newark, Ohio.

———. 1999. “The Impact of Lions-Quest Programs.” Evaluation Report. Newark, Ohio.

Tinzmann, Margaret B. 2000. “Evaluation of Quest Curriculum Materials.” Unpublished Report. Quest International.


Greg Long
Lions-Quest International
P.O. Box 304
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
Phone: (800) 446-2700
Fax: (240) 646-7023
Web site:

Technical Assistance Provider

Greg Long
P.O. Box 304
Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
Phone: (800) 446-2700
Fax: (240) 646-7023
Web site: