Memphis to Implement Proven Programs to Boost Well-Being of Black Students

Posted March 5, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Memphis to implement two proven programs in one of its public schools: Strong African American Families and Cognitive Behavioral Intervention for Trauma in Schools

This year, com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers in Mem­phis approved the start of two pro­grams meant to improve the health, aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess and emo­tion­al well-being of African Amer­i­can stu­dents in select schools. The pro­grams are part of the city’s imple­men­ta­tion of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Evidence2Success™ frame­work, which com­bines pub­lic health and pre­ven­tion sci­ence to improve well-being for young people.

The pro­grams will start at Book­er T. Wash­ing­ton Mid­dle and High School this year, with a plan to expand to oth­er schools in the com­ing years. The hope is that stu­dents’ self-report­ed risk fac­tors — such as trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ences and sub­stance use — will decrease and that each school will see improve­ments in atten­dance, behav­ior and aca­d­e­m­ic performance.

Through a Youth Expe­ri­ence Sur­vey — a tool used to cap­ture infor­ma­tion on whether kids are meet­ing devel­op­men­tal mile­stones and where they face chal­lenges — young peo­ple in Mem­phis iden­ti­fied trau­ma, act­ing out and a lack of close rela­tion­ships with adults among the most sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges they faced.

The two pro­grams aim to address those issues and tar­get stu­dents who are near­ing or are in ear­ly ado­les­cence — when young peo­ple gain increas­ing con­trol over their behav­ior, begin form­ing friend­ships and devel­op atti­tudes toward sub­stance use.

The atti­tudes chil­dren devel­op dur­ing this time influ­ence their moti­va­tion, aca­d­e­m­ic per­for­mance and friend­ships, which in turn influ­ence their cur­rent and future well-being,” says Amoret­ta Mor­ris, direc­tor of Nation­al Com­mu­ni­ty Strate­gies for the Casey Foun­da­tion. That’s why these pro­grams are so crit­i­cal to ensur­ing these young peo­ple are on the right path.”

Strong African Amer­i­can Families

One of the pro­grams, Strong African Amer­i­can Fam­i­lies, aims to keep black mid­dle-school­ers from engag­ing in risky behav­iors — such as a tak­ing drugs or skip­ping school — and to help them improve their short-term and long-term plan­ning skills. Specif­i­cal­ly, stu­dents learn about goal set­ting, self-reg­u­la­tion and resist­ing peer pres­sure, among oth­er things.

Dur­ing the sev­en-week pro­gram, care­givers attend sep­a­rate work­shops and gain skills in:

  • using effec­tive discipline;
  • pro­mot­ing independence;
  • build­ing appre­ci­a­tion for pos­i­tive author­i­ty fig­ures in their chil­dren; and
  • prepar­ing youth to han­dle temp­ta­tion and peer pressure.

To learn more about Strong African Amer­i­can Fam­i­lies, down­load Con­sid­er­ing Cul­ture: Build­ing the Best Evi­dence-Based Prac­tices for Chil­dren of Col­or.

Cog­ni­tive Behav­ioral Inter­ven­tion for Trau­ma in Schools

The sec­ond pro­gram, Cog­ni­tive Behav­ioral Inter­ven­tion for Trau­ma in Schools, is designed for ado­les­cent stu­dents who have had trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ences caus­ing emo­tion­al or behav­ioral issues. In a 10-ses­sion pro­gram, men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als seek to reduce depres­sion, anx­i­ety and post-trau­mat­ic stress among these young peo­ple through cog­ni­tive-behav­ioral tech­niques. Among oth­er things, stu­dents learn how to:

  • relax bet­ter;
  • com­bat neg­a­tive thoughts; and
  • build prob­lem-solv­ing skills for social situations.

We expect that these proven pro­grams will help address the needs that young peo­ple have iden­ti­fied and help them get on a path to suc­cess,” says Kather­ine Bryan, cochair of the com­mu­ni­ty board that select­ed the pro­grams for imple­men­ta­tion and a pro­gram offi­cer with the Mem­phis-based non­prof­it, The Urban Child Insti­tute. We hope the lessons we learn from imple­men­ta­tion in the first year will be help­ful as we expand the pro­grams to more schools in the future.”


Mem­phis is one of six com­mu­ni­ties imple­ment­ing Casey’s Evidence2Sucess frame­work. The five oth­er com­mu­ni­ties are Kearns Town­ship in Salt Lake Coun­ty, Utah; Lib­er­ty City in Mia­mi, Flori­da; Mobile and Sel­ma, Alaba­ma; and Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island. In all six loca­tions, pub­lic sys­tem and res­i­dent lead­ers are com­ing togeth­er to gath­er data, iden­ti­fy pri­or­i­ties and shift pub­lic fund­ing to proven pro­grams that help address challenges.

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