ISU Receives $21 million Grant to Help Youth Avoid Problems

July 10th, 2002

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University has received a $21 million federal grant to develop community partnerships that strengthen families and help young people avoid substance abuse and behavioral problems.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) awarded $21,111,085 to the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research at Iowa State. The five-year PROSPER project will involve thousands of youth in 14 Iowa communities. PROSPER stands for PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience. Pennsylvania State University will collaborate with ISU to implement a similar program in 14 Pennsylvania communities. The project will reach about 10,000 youth in the two states.

"Children and youth are our nation's most valuable resource," said Stanley Johnson, vice provost for extension at Iowa State. "Unfortunately, a significant number are at risk because of substance use and other social problems. Schools alone can't solve these complex problems. What can make a difference are partnerships involving university extension staff, schools, families and other concerned local citizens."

The PROSPER project will support the development of local partnership teams in seven Iowa school districts. The teams — made up of school leaders, extension staff, parents, community leaders, students, and health and social service providers — will identify needs and offer scientifically tested programs to improve the health and well-being of middle-school and high-school students. In seven other Iowa school districts, local teams will receive technical assistance to implement similar programs.

Project director Richard Spoth said the need for the project is clear. "The prevalence of youth substance abuse and related problems in both rural and urban areas is alarming," Spoth said. "Many programs have been developed to prevent youth substance abuse, but few have been scientifically evaluated and fewer have proven effective."

For the past 12 years, Spoth and other ISU scientists have evaluated intervention programs. Their research has found that well-designed programs can strengthen skills that young people and their families need to resist substance use and social misconduct. Their studies show participating families benefit from the programs for years. Economic analyses show the programs are a good investment of public dollars, Spoth said.

"PROSPER is a unique opportunity to promote a set of healthy influences that will make a difference in the lives of Iowa youth, families and communities," Spoth said. "The project aims to help young people be resilient in the face of many problems and, in turn, help them prepare for better futures as adults."

PROSPER is intended to be a model for a national network of partnerships, Spoth added. The project also will examine ways to sustain the local programs after grant funding has ended.

An ISU project that began in 1998 laid the groundwork for PROSPER. The Capable Families and Youth Project (CaFaY), which received a $5.3 million award from NIDA, has reached more than 2,000 middle-school children and their families in 36 rural Iowa school districts. The project promoted links among families, schools and communities. Recently, NIDA approved funding to extend the project another five years. CaFaY and PROSPER are part of Project Family, a set of ISU studies to support and strengthen families by enhancing family and youth skills.

The leader of the PROSPER project in Pennsylvania is Mark Greenberg, director of the Prevention Research Center at Pennsylvania State University.

Details about the PROSPER program
Project Family information
Information about the Institute for Social and Behavioral Research


Richard Spoth, Institute for Social and Behavioral Research, (515) 294-5383

Stanley Johnson, ISU Extension, (515) 294-6192

Brian Meyer, Agriculture Communications, (515) 294-0706