Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $750,000)
The Council on At-Risk Youth (CARY) is formally requesting funding for an enhancement of the CARY PeaceRox program at Bedichek Middle School, Lively Middle School, and Paredes Middle School within the Austin Independent School District (AISD). The need for services in these areas is evident in the increase in delinquency noted by AISD, which observed that the schools listed saw a higher concentration of violence and disruptive behavior compared to other Austin schools. By targeting this population, CARY will be able to provide Trauma-Informed Care through school-based programs with the objective of ending the cycle of violence for students and their families.
CARY’s PeaceRox program is an evidence-based curriculum focusing on aggression replacement and social-emotional skills. The program is designed to target youth with a history of trauma to prevent them from dropping out or becoming involved in the juvenile justice system. CARY collaborates with school administration to identify these students and engage them in programming, during school hours. The school administration refers students who have received at least one serious disciplinary referral (i.e., possession of a weapon or drugs, gang activity, assault, bullying, and fighting) to the program.
Each CARY Youth Advisor is assigned to one school and conducts the PeaceRox Aggression Replacement Training (ART) Program with 100 students per year. Youth Advisors work with students over two school semesters (Fall and Spring). In the first semester, they lead small-group social cognitive skills-based training sessions, and in the second semester, they follow up with individual behavioral counseling, mentoring, and coaching.
The goal of the CARY program is to empower the highest-risk youth to promote safer communities, by teaching social cognitive life skills to students with a history of trauma and involvement in the disciplinary system and redirecting them away from the pipeline to prison. This is accomplished by removing barriers to accessing mental health services including screening and treatment and through the implementation of trauma-informed care and evidence-based practices focusing on the whole child, which includes their family system. CARY expects the long-term impacts to be similar to what has been seen in recent outcome assessment for CARY services in AISD overall: (a) 78% of CARY students have seen a decrease in serious behavioral referrals; (b) 70% of CARY students have seen an increase in school attendance, and (c) 52% of CARY students have seen an improvement in grades.