The STAR Program
Winner of SAMHSA’s 2008 Science and Service Award for substance abuse prevention programs (one of 7 national winners)!
STAR (which stands for Skills Training and Recognition) is an after school program for students in grades 5 – 8 in Appleton, Camden, Hope, Lincolnville, and Rockport. The STAR program focuses on skill development, recognizing youth as they learn these skills, and connecting youth with opportunities in the larger community.
STAR is based on a program called PALS (Participate And Learn Skills) studied by Dr. Marshall Jones and Dr. David Offord. The original program was based in Ottawa, Ontario and has also been replicated in Chester, Pennsylvania. Dr. Marshall Jones has generously provided technical assistance to Five Town Communities That Care in order to help us faithfully duplicate the program. Research showed PALS was successful in decreasing the incidence of problem behaviors (such as teen substance abuse, violence, and delinquency). Five Town Communities That Care began implementation of the STAR program in the spring of 2004.
The STAR program is based on the idea that youths who 1) are given the opportunity to learn skills in a supportive and pro-social environment, 2) are recognized for their mastery of those skills, and 3) whose individual characteristics are nurtured, are more likely to internalize healthy beliefs and clear standards. Youths who have confidence in their basic skills are apt to become involved in groups where healthy development is fostered.
STAR has included instruction in Art, Animal Antics, Basketball, Creative Writing, “Full of Ourselves,” Knit Wits, Rockin’ Running, Soccer, Swimming, Martial Arts, Tennis, Yoga, Cooking, Farm Hands, Child Care Education, Golf, Youth Fitness, Drama and Photography. Instruction is offered at a variety of program sites in the community, including Aldermere Farms, Camden Animal Rescue League, Camden Hills Regional High School, Mid-Coast Martial Arts, Mid-Coast Recreation Center, Penobscot Bay YMCA, the Rockport Golf Club, and the Teen Center.
Each STAR program cycle includes twelve hours of instruction in a particular skill area over a six-week period. STAR has a well-developed curriculum designed to assist students by assessing their level of personal skill at the beginning and end of the program.
At the end of each program week youth from all sites come together for “Fun Fridays.” During Fun Fridays, students from all four schools have the opportunity to recreate together at the Penobscot Bay YMCA and the Teen Center. This interaction allows students from the four public middle schools a chance to develop relationships with peers who will eventually become their classmates when they attend Camden Hills Regional High School together.
A healthy snack, and transportation to and from all four area public middle schools is included in the program.
The STAR program is available at no cost to participants thanks to generous donations from community members, organizations, and businesses. STAR has also received funding through a grant from Maine’s Juvenile Justice Advocacy Group in recognition for its prevention work.