SMART Moves Program
The Turn 2 Foundation continues to support the SMART Moves program at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo. The program serves male and female school-aged youths who typically reside within the greater Kalamazoo area. This past project year, the program served 293 youth at the Lake Street Unit and Douglass Community Association Unit. Approximately 85 percent of the program's members were eligible for free or reduced-price school meals and received some form of government assistance. Smaller component programs make up the entire SMART Moves curriculum and include the following:
- SMART Kids A skills-development program for youth ages 6-9. Session discussions and projects include identifying personal differences in people, building positive self-worth and healthy relationships, and identifying "good" drugs versus "bad" drugs.
- Start SMART A resistance-skills program for youth ages 9-12. Session discussions and projects include healthy decision-making, building positive self-worth, goal-setting, building healthy relationships, identifying the dangers of substance abuse and discussing other issues facing this age group.
- Stay SMART A social-skills program for adolescents ages 13-15. Session discussions and projects build upon discussions from Start SMART, including healthy decision-making, building positive self-worth, goal-setting, building healthy relationships, identifying the dangers of substance abuse and the media depiction of substance abuse, and discussing issues facing this age group.
- SMART Girls A gender-specific program for girls ages 10-15. Session discussions and projects include building self-esteem, developing a healthy lifestyle, identifying the dangers of substance abuse, developing healthy relationships, and dealing with gender specific issues.
- Passport to Manhood A program that promotes and teaches responsibility in boys ages 11-14. Sessions concentrate on specific aspects of manhood through highly interactive activities.
- NetSMARTZ A program developed jointly with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, it teaches Internet safety skills through engaging multimedia activities and offline interaction with club professionals. Topics include personal safety, shopping safety and ethical use of the internet.
Each SMART Moves component focuses on building self-esteem, self-awareness and decision-making skills as well as informing about the dangers of drug and alcohol use. Additional areas of focus include personal identity, family integrity, peer pressure, refusal techniques, media literacy, short- and long-term goal setting and STD/HIV awareness. The Club feels that by repeatedly strengthening these skills and increasing knowledge, youth become better prepared to meet peer pressure toward drug and alcohol use, violent behavior and early sexual involvement.
2010-11 SMART Moves Success Stories and Program Ancedotes:
Both SMART Moves locations observed positive changes in their participants' attitudes from the beginning of the 2010-11 program year. Examples of this include:
- After a lesson in friendship and positive relationships, one child said, "I should have told my brother that I was mad at him for leaving early instead of just being mean to him."
- After a lesson on the dangers of smoking, two siblings said they went home and showed their dad the handouts, and he told them he would try to quit smoking again.
- In SMART Girls, several members came to the conclusion that they were feeling badly about themselves because they were comparing themselves to other girls and celebrities. One girl made the comment, "If a girlfriend or boyfriend says that you must be someone else to be their friend, STAY AWAY!"
Young people involved in the SMART Moves programs also demonstrated positive changes in specific attitudes and behaviors, particularly decrease in anti-social behavior, increase in social competence, and increase in perceived family and social support. The strongest experience reported by children was the feeling of being welcome (sense of belonging: 100% of participants), closely followed by a sense of being listened to by staff (sense of influence: 91% of participants) and feeling a sense of usefulness (92% of participants). These are powerful findings indicating the value of the SMART Moves program, through their motivated and caring staff are making a positive difference amongst a vulnerable group of youth.