UpFront Programs & Services
The Program's Background
The UpFront Drug Education and Support program has been in existence for twelve years, offering TA, trainings and working with youth of color in urban schools in the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily at Oakland High School and Berkeley Technical Academy. During this time, we have served thousands of students and a growing cadre of teachers and administrators. The federally-funded, state-run Coordinated Compliance Review and a second, outside evaluator hired by Oakland Unified School District, evaluated UpFront and rated our program model as Exemplary, and suggested we expand our model to other schools.
The UpFront program model is based on the following principals;
- Active student involvement in design and implementation (including current drug users)
- Interactive, honest, and mutually respectful groups
- Respecting the experience of everyone participating
- Working from the strengths and knowledge youth already possess
- The concept that the current science of substance use, accurately reported, contains the most effective prevention messages
- Acknowledging the fact that youth make their own choices regarding substance use
- Creating healthy and supportive relationships is a primary goal
UpFront Program Description
The main components of our program are confidential, non-judgmental, interactive groups. Our experience has been that when properly run by well trained facilitators, youth usually drop the guise of drug romanticization and the false shield of demonization. They instead talk honestly about their lives and their experience, first-hand and otherwise, of drug/alcohol/tobacco use and the many surrounding issues. This open dialogue creates opportunities for critical thinking, healthy self-reflection, and student-to-student information sharing. When considered from a Stages of Change perspective, we see that if done effectively these groups act as education, prevention (at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels), and treatment simultaneously. Also, this dynamic process engages all students--drug users and nonusers alike--while building trust and a framework for more effective follow up. Following with individual work, group facilitation training, drug use support groups and other types of groups and services, we increase both the levels of trust and the opportunities for deeper relationship, connection, and positive change.
Working with youth from many backgrounds (Oakland High School Graduation is performed in 10 languages) has shown us that most youth are eager to talk about alcohol and other drugs, and all are in desperate need of accurate, unbiased information. When given an opportunity, students are much more likely to develop trusting and supportive relationships with each other as well as the adults operating the program, seeking help from those adults when needed. This works to improve student health and well being, positively affects the school’s climate, and ultimately the community at large.