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Supporting Adolescents with Guidance and Employment (SAGE)

Ages 12-16

Rating: Level 3


Supporting Adolescents with Guidance and Employment (SAGE) is a violence-prevention program developed specifically for African-American adolescents. The program consists of three main components, namely a Rites of Passages (ROP) program, a summer jobs training and placement (JTP) program, and an entrepreneurial experience that uses the Junior Achievement (JA) model.

The purpose of the first component, ROP, is to develop a strong sense of African-American cultural pride and ethnic identity in the participants and instill a sense of responsibility in their community, their peers, and themselves. In seminars held every other week over 8 months, the program curriculum (developed in 1993 by the Durham, N.C., Business and Professional Chain) also promotes self-esteem, positive attitudes, and the avoidance of a range of risky behaviors. Instructors cover topics such as conflict resolution, African-American history, male sexuality, and manhood training. Mentors from the community provide outreach experiences and tutoring.

The second component, the JTP experience, places youths in summer jobs at desirable worksites such as dentist offices, local museums, and recreational centers. Site supervisors are encouraged to provide structure. Youths are trained in appropriate business behavior and dress. Job counselors work with the youths to resolve issues such as transportation.

The third component, JA, teaches how to develop and implement a small business. With the guidance of volunteer advisers from the local business community, youths form a legal corporation, develop a business plan, elect officers, and sell stock to family and friends. They also market and sell a product (e.g., T-shirts, caps).

The overall approach of SAGE is based on the theory that positive gains in personal and social responsibility, educational aspirations, and academic achievement—in tandem with employment training and opportunities fostered by community mentors—will make a positive impact on reducing violence among the participants.


SAGE was assessed using a longitudinal, randomized field trial in which program applicants were assigned to one of three programmatic conditions: 1) guidance plus employment (ROP, JTP, and JA), 2) employment only (JTP and JA), and 3) a comparison group eligible for delayed participation in JA only. Survey data collection points occurred at baseline, at 18 months, and at 30 months after the program began. After completion of baseline questionnaires, the 255 eligible youths (African-American males ages 12–16) were assigned to each group: 86 to the guidance and employment (ROP/JTP/JA) condition, 84 to the employment-only (JTP/JA) condition, and 85 to the comparison condition. The mean age of the participants was 14. Fifty-three percent reported receiving free lunches at school; 18 percent reported that their mothers had not completed high school; and 50 percent were not living with a father. Self-report and archival data was used to assess the effectiveness of SAGE on behavioral outcomes for a variety of risk behaviors (e.g., violence-related behaviors such as physical fighting, carrying or using a weapon; alcohol-, tobacco-, and other drug-related behaviors such as use, abuse, and commerce; and risky sexual behaviors). In addition to outcome measurements, the self-report survey included questions regarding process measurement. Baseline data indicated that during the previous year, many had engaged in various violence-related behaviors, including fighting (63 percent) and carrying a gun (22 percent) or a knife (30 percent).


Despite the absence of statistical significance, the pattern of results from the evaluation provides tentative evidence that participation in SAGE can reduce the likelihood of violence-related and other health-risk behaviors among African-American male adolescents. At the 18-month follow-up, the mean number of problem behaviors reported by the employment-with-guidance group declined, in contrast to the slight increase of the comparison group and to no change in the employment-only group. Examining each behavioral outcome individually, differences in a positive direction for employment-with-guidance were observed for 8 of the 10 outcomes, relative to the control group. For the employment-only group, positive differences were observed for 7 of the 10 outcome measures. Of the 10 behavioral outcomes examined, the program seemed to have the greatest benefits for reducing reports for carrying a gun, selling illegal drugs, and injuring others with a weapon. However, programmatic gains were not sustained over the 30-month follow-up. Assessment of the psychosocial constructs (e.g., increasing self-esteem, educational aspirations, beliefs supporting aggression) found no statistically significant effects. The relatively small group sizes in this study may have diminished the possibilities for finding statistically significant effects. In addition, the analysis was performed on all participants according to the group to which they were randomly assigned, regardless of their actual level of exposure to the programmatic components. This “intent to treat” approach is viewed as the most rigorous approach for assessing programmatic effects in randomized designs, but it is also a conservative one that may underestimate the actual impact if all the young men had participated fully in the intervention activities. Including all participants—regardless of their level of exposure to treatment—may have contributed to the lack of statistically significant findings and may have underestimated the actual impact of the program.

Risk Factors


  • Anti-social behavior and alienation/Delinquent beliefs/General delinquency involvement/Drug dealing
  • Cognitive and neurological deficits/Low intelligence quotient/Hyperactivity
  • Early onset of aggression and/or violence
  • Early sexual involvement
  • Favorable attitudes toward drug use/Early onset of AOD use/Alcohol and/or drug use
  • Gun possession/Illegal gun ownership and/or carrying
  • Life stressors
  • Mental disorder/Mental health problem/Conduct disorder
  • Victimization and exposure to violence


  • Low academic achievement


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

Protective Factors


  • Healthy / Conventional beliefs and clear standards
  • High expectations
  • Perception of social support from adults and peers
  • Positive expectations / Optimism for the future
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social competencies and problem-solving skills


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


  • Involvement with positive peer group activities


  • CDC


Flewelling, Robert, M.J. Paschal, Karen Lissy, Barri Burrus, Christopher Ringwalt, Phillip Graham, Verna Lamar, May Kuo, and Dorothy Browne. 1999. A Process and Outcome Evaluation of ‘Supporting Adolescents With Guidance and Employment (SAGE)’: A Community-Based Violence Prevention Program for African-American Male Adolescents. Final Report for Grant No. U81/CCU408504–01, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Arnold Dennis
North Carolina Central University
1801 Fayetteville St.
Durham, NC 27707
Phone: (919) 560-7092

Technical Assistance Provider

Bob Flewelling, Senior Research Scientist
Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation
1516 East Franklin Street, Suite 200
Chapel Hill, NC 27514–3307
Phone: (919) 265-2621
Fax: (919) 265-2659