Aban Aya Youth Project (Aban Aya) is a program developed specifically for African American youth that comprises two interrelated components: a social development curriculum (SDC) that is administered in classrooms by teachers and a school–community intervention (SCI), which enhances the SDC classroom component by bringing in the surrounding community. Aban Aya seeks to reduce and prevent five problem behaviors for African American youth:
· Provoking behavior
· Substance use
· School delinquency
· Early sexual activity/risky sexual activity
Students are taught how to resolve conflicts in a nonviolent manner and refusal skills to avoid using drugs and alcohol. The curriculum promotes the values of abstinence but also includes safe sex practices to reach out to youth who may already be sexually active. These problem behaviors are addressed while emphasizing self-esteem and cultural pride, and strengthening family and community ties. Prior research suggests that these cultural elements are important when working with African American youths. The program name comes from the Akan language, spoken in Ghana, where “Aban” means “fence” and is symbolic of double/social protection, and “Aya” means “an unfurling fern,” symbolizing self-determination.
The Aban Aya Youth Project was specifically designed for African American youth. It is suitable for males in middle school or between the ages of 10 and 14.
The Afrocentric SDC is administered in schools over the span of 4 years, starting in the fifth grade and ending in eighth grade. The lessons are classroom based and last approximately 40–45 minutes each. Lessons vary from year to year, both in number and in content, but focus on teaching substance abuse refusal skills, conflict resolution, abstinence, and sex education.
The more comprehensive intervention component, the SCI, enhances the SDC classroom intervention by providing community empowerment sections. These include parent support programs, school staff and schoolwide youth support programs, and an overarching community program to build connections between parents, schools, local businesses, and agencies. The parental support program reinforces skills learned in the classroom and works on child–parent communication. These efforts are part of getting all interested parties involved and working toward the same common goal of raising healthy children.
Program Theory/Key Personnel
The Aban Aya Youth Project was built by taking elements from previously existing programs and blending them with newly developed, Afrocentric segments. Course materials and lesson plans were either adapted from existing prevention programs or newly created. The SDC component relies largely on cognitive–behavioral skills and existing research on risk and protective factors. The SCI component engages all stakeholders in the community, from parents to local businesses, in an effort to promote sustainability of the classroom curriculum and create a sense of common ownership for youth involved in the program.