Goals and Objectives of the practice:
The goal of Project RESTORE was to plan, implement and evaluate a series of coordinated, multi-disciplinary interventions tailored for minority, at-risk youth that improve academic, disciplinary and health-related protective factors and reduce risk factors for violent behaviors among participating youth. To achieve this goal, the project had specific objectives: (1) increase cultural competence among those working with or serving at-risk youth; (2) protective / resiliency factors; (3) improve academic outcomes; (4) decrease disciplinary actions; (5) arrests, court referrals, crimes, gun violence; (6) reduce stress and increase behavioral health; and (7) increase family engagement.
What did you do to achieve the goals and objectives?
Project RESTORE staff at DPH worked with partner school administrators to identify staff members at the intervention schools as well as the high school from which peer mentors would be recruited. These staff members then worked with Project RESTORE team from DPH to coordinate the implementation of the programs at the intervention schools. In consultation with school administrators, a class period during which the peer mentorship program (TAHC) would be delivered was identified at each of the schools. The project RESTORE coordinator then worked with the three school districts to: (1) identify and sustain a TAHC sponsor (s) in each partner high school who are responsible for recruiting peer educators (10-30 students); and (2) identify and maintain contacts in intervention schools (e.g., Principals, Counselors, Health or Family and Consumer Studies teachers) to assist with scheduling TAHC presentations. Once the peer educators were identified, DPH staff then delivered a one-half day training (annually) to peer educators for them to learn about the history of the program, understand their role as peer educators and role models, be trained on presentation formats and tips, and practice participating in, and leading lessons. The TAHC curriculum offers grade- and age-appropriate lessons, and is delivered in a highly structured and prescriptive sequence of sessions for the first time as part of the Project RESTORE program. Specifically, in Year One of the program, the peer educators were trained to deliver a curriculum consisting of eight 50-minute lessons. These lessons covered a variety of topics including: (1) every choice counts; (2) dealing with conflict; (3) alcohol and tobacco and other drugs; and (4) dating issues. In Year Two the peer mentors were again trained for one-half day and the lessons the curriculum included eight 50-minute lessons focusing on: (1) positive outlook on life; (2) forming a positive self-concept; (3) decision making and problem solving; (4) managing stress; (5) coping with depression; (6) substance abuse; and (7) bullying. During scheduled TAHC lesson day and class period, trained peer educators were transported from high school in the same district to the intervention middle school to deliver lessons to the cohort students. During the designated class time, either TAHC sponsor (teacher) or the teacher for the specific class period was present in the classroom only to observe and ensure order. For providing peer mentorship and education, as an incentive, the peer educator received credit for volunteer hours that they applied toward their graduation requirements.
The summer program was delivered by the Police Athletic League (PAL). PAL planed, implemented and reported data for the summer program that offers opportunities to participate in activities on the school campus, involves sports and physical activity, provides positive and productive individuals to serve as mentors (law enforcement officers) and involves parents/ caregivers in activities to promote their understanding of risk and protective factors and foster interaction and communication with their children. The summer program also includes field trips at the end of each week. Field trip destinations in Year One included trips to Busch Stadium for a baseball game, Brunswick Zone, City Museum, Redman Pool, Six Flags and a culminating day-long trip to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. In Year Two, a six-week summer program was delivered again from May 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019. During this time, PAL participants went on several field trips, including, Six Flags of Mid America, camping, movies, fishing, swimming and several other activities. Specialized officers in the different police units including crime analysis lab and tactical unit teams, also, came to speak to the students about their work.
Then, beginning in the 2018 – 2019 school year, as part of the four-year implementation plan for Project RESTORE, PAL transitioned to a year round after-school program. Before the transition, all partners worked closely to ensure that PAL's after-school activities aligned with existing after-school programs within the schools. The after school program therefore leveraged existing after-school activities such as basketball and other extracurricular activities to implement the year-round PAL after-school program. As part of the after-school program, PAL officers and other volunteer officers enlisted by the program help with different activities including homework and academic tutoring. Additionally, to better facilitate PAL's after-school program, the school administrators provided office space at each of the participating high schools where the cohort students transitioned. Using funds from Project RESTORE, these offices were turned into Club Houses” fully equipped with computers, video games, and other equipment that PAL participants can utilize after school. In these Club Houses” officers interact with cohort participants to play games, or help the students with their homework.
An important aspect of this project was parent engagement. In this regard, we worked with school administrators and teachers to identify suitable event and time to bring together parents and students to talk to them about the project. On the recommendation of parents on the advisory board, we organized fun and engaging activities. Specifically, at the beginning of the 2018 – 2019 school year, we worked with school principals to organize a barbecue events at the three intervention schools that brought parents, teachers and students together to talk about the project and how their children can benefit from it. The schools brought in Disk Jockeys (DJs) to play music and entertain the students and parents. We also attended parent teacher conferences where we talked about the project. Additionally, we brought in and expert to talk to both parents and teachers about how to deal with mental health issues, specifically focusing on how to cope with depression and stress, and how to identify these problems in their children. Two of the school districts were also able to bring in local artists that have become famous nationally (Koran Bolden, nationally acclaimed motivational speaker and author of the book Rock, Paper, Scissors; and Gerald Fulton, Jr. better known as Hitman Holla a battle rapper and star of the show Wild N Out with Nick Cannon), to talk to them about how to avoid getting in trouble and making good choices.
An important component of the project is engaging adults who work with the cohort students. These included teachers, school staff as well as the police officers and other volunteers. To help these adults improve their engagement with the students, Project RESTORE provided professional development trainings focusing on cultural competence. Specifically, in Year One, we worked with all the schools to engage a company called Educational Equity Consultants (EEC), a local entity that provides diversity training that identifies and eradicates systems of oppression that damage our workplaces, communities and schools” (EEC, 2017). In addition, through project RESTORE funding, schools sent staff and school leaders to national training centers to be trained as trainers on Restorative Justice practices so that they can then come back and train their colleagues to ensure sustainability of these practices and changing the culture in their schools.
Another important component of this project is evaluation. To this end, it was important to have a strong evaluation team whose responsibility was to evaluate the program to ensure that the program is delivered with fidelity. The evaluation team evaluated three different components of the project: (1) the implicit bias training taken by St. Louis County Police officers; (2) the delivery of TAHC and PAL programs; and (3) Restorative Justice Practices at the schools. As described in the evaluation section, the evaluation teams worked with the Project RESTORE implementation team as well as administrators at intervention schools to provide feedback and guidance on different aspects of the project. For example, one of the major issues we learned during the planning stages of the project was that the schools were at different stages of implementing Restorative Justice practices. As part of this project, the evaluation team conducted an initial assessment in Year One and provided each of the schools with an assessment report on where they were, what they were doing, and an individualized action plan for moving forward with implementation of Restorative Justice practices.
Criteria and Timeframe
The selection criteria of schools invited to participate in the project was based on requirement by the Office of Minority Health to include participants from schools with a high percentage of racial minority, and environmentally and/or economically disadvantaged students, as measured by the percentage of students receiving free/reduced lunch. Additionally, during the planning phase school administrators voiced concern that most of the violent behavior often started as cyber bullying. Because research indicates that electronic aggression peaks around the end of Middle School and the beginning of High School (~ 8th grade), we decided to enroll a cohort starting in the 7th grade. These students are being followed for four years until they complete 10th grade and all partners are involved in all aspects of the project until the end.
LHD and Partners' Roles
The DPH, as the lead agency with already established relationships with many entities in the county, convened all the partners and led in the planning and implementation of the project. DPH continues to provide overall leadership and coordination of the project. In this role, DPH plans and hosts all regular and ad hock partner meetings and ensures that the project adheres to the four-year implementation plan developed by all stakeholders. Further, as the cornerstone program (TAHC) is run by DPH, it coordinates with the schools to provide this training to peer educators and students in the cohort. Moreover, DPH reports benchmark data and progress to OMH; ensure financial and programmatic compliance with all HHS and OMB regulations. The other stakeholders play crucial roles as well. The three school partners provide school administrative data for project cohort; coordinate academic tutoring at least four hours per week; facilitate student and parent recruitment for Advisory Board and in-school interventions; facilitate teacher participation in: cultural competence and/or conflict management training, Restorative Justice assessments, seeking parental consent for cohort students; promote engagement in program evaluation; ensure availability of school campus facilities year-round (summer and academic year). Partners from institutions of higher learning provide evaluation for all aspects of the project. Law-enforcement agency approves officer participation and encourages full engagement in PAL and Implicit Bias training; provides access to law enforcement officers for evaluation of training and PAL; recruits cohort students to attend PAL after-school activities and Summer Program; plans, manages, implements and reports on PAL activities per project requirements and evaluation team requests; promotes program participation (students and law enforcement officers); provides training, orientation, guidance and supervision of PAL officers.
Project RESTORE is implemented through a 4-year $1.7 million funding from the Office of Minority Health, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This amount is spread out over 4 four years ($425,000 per year). Additionally, partners including DPH and St. Louis County Police Department have made staff available to help with the implementation of the project. For example, at DPH, the time that the Program Director, a Health Educator, and three members of the chronic disease epidemiology team is provided as in-kind service to the grant. The St. Louis County Police Department has assigned three officers and a commanding Sargent to the Police Athletic League. While these officers work full-time on the implementation of Project RESTORE at the three partner schools and other related projects, their salaries are covered by the St. Louis County Police Department.
 Williams, KR et al. (2007). Prevalence & predictors of internet bullying. Journal of Adolescent Health. 41:S14-21.