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The Project Amp curriculum was designed with and for youth and young adults. Adolescence is a time marked with increasing autonomy and responsibility, changing perceptions of the self and thoughts about the future, and a range of pressures and stressors related to family, school, social, and community contexts. For some, adolescence may also yield increased opportunities to experiment with alcohol and other drugs.1

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Project Amp is developmentally appropriate and youth-driven

The Project Amp curriculum was designed with and for youth and young adults. Adolescence is a time marked with increasing autonomy and responsibility, changing perceptions of the self and thoughts about the future, and a range of pressures and stressors related to family, school, social, and community contexts. For some, adolescence may also yield increased opportunities to experiment with alcohol and other drugs.1

Project Amp is designed to meet each youth participant “where they’re at” and provides youth with a safe place to explore their values, beliefs, and perspectives about physical and mental well-being, substance use, and related issues. Project Amp sessions are focused on the youth participant’s strengths, goals, and experiences and give them the opportunity to talk about themselves with someone who can understand and relate.

Project Amp content is geared towards common adolescent experiences and concerns, and is presented in ways that are supportive, relatable, and non-judgmental. The curriculum is intended to be adapted to reflect local contexts and be culturally responsive.

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Project Amp is delivered by skilled, young adult near-age peer mentors

Project Amp is delivered by skilled, young adult, near-age peer mentors. Working with a near-age peer helps to improve youth engagement. Mentors can clarify information and assist youth participants in whatever ways are safest and most meaningful to them. Youth participants value the mentor relationship. Project Amp mentors are relatable; they understand the unique challenges of being a young person—especially during hard times—and can also provide peer support and guidance based on their own experiences.

Project Amp mentors are trained in evidence-based strategies such as motivational interviewing, trauma-informed care, recovery and prevention messaging, cultural humility, and more. They are skilled in rapport building, creating connections, and building relationships with healthy boundaries.

Mentors often become the first point of contact for students who are struggling, even after the brief mentorship intervention happens. They are prepared to recognize when students may need additional support and can guide them to resources that range from school- and community-based activities to clinical supports. As a growing segment of the peer workforce, young adult peers play a critical role within youth-serving systems. Skilled young peers can help to scale up youth substance use prevention, early intervention, and recovery support programming.

“What caught my attention was meeting the mentors—that’s when I had buy-in. It helped a specific category of kids who didn’t qualify for mental health services that I could provide or who needed supplemental support. [It was] great to have someone closer to her age than I am, and in a peer relationship. [I] heard nothing but great things from her.” — School staff

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Project Amp integrates established evidence-based practices

Project Amp is theory-driven, and integrates several well-researched, person-centered, evidence-based practices such as:

  • motivational interviewing
  • peer support
  • trauma-informed care
  • positive youth development

The Project Amp curriculum and mentor training draws on these established practices to promote a safe, engaging, and flexible experience for youth participants. Building rapport and trust is key to any helping relationship — and is vital to addressing substance use risks and concerns effectively. Mentors learn that how you show up in relationship to a youth participant is just as important as what you do in supporting someone to work towards health and well-being.

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Project Amp is person-centered, trauma-informed, recovery-oriented, and strengths-based

Project Amp is person-centered, wherein the youth participant is actively involved in and is at the center of any decisions that relate to their life. The mentoring relationship is a partnership, and mentors utilize motivational interviewing skills, frequently check in about youth preferences and comfort, and avoid giving advice or making decisions for the youth participant.2

Project Amp utilizes a trauma-informed approach that acknowledges that most youth have experienced some form of trauma. Project Amp mentors learn about the potential impact of trauma, and how best to respond in ways that are trauma-informed . Trauma-informed practices prioritize safe environments, empowering relationships, choice, cultural humility, and the avoidance of triggers in sessions.3

Project Amp is recovery-oriented. Sessions emphasize the importance of growth, connection, and self-discovery as individuals move past difficulties in life and develop their strengths, find motivations, and think about their futures.4 Even for youth who do not identify is being in or needing recovery, a recovery orientation promotes growth and healing. Project Amp also deeply values mentors’ lived experiences of recovery and resiliency and encourages them to draw on these experiences in the brief mentoring relationship.

Project Amp is founded on a strengths-based philosophy that emphasizes a person’s self-determination and strengths, as opposed to their deficits or faults. The model emphasizes the importance of helping youth to recognize their natural strengths, resources, and capabilities.5

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Project Amp is racially equitable and culturally responsive

Project Amp recognizes the pervasive impact of racism across every institution in our society — including schools, behavioral health systems, and other youth-serving settings. Mentors are trained to recognize bias and to respond to cultural differences with humility and curiosity. Mentors also learn that people may have different perceptions about substance use, mental health, screening, services, and supports — and how best to meet youth “where they’re at.”

The Project Amp team can also support implementing agencies to assess sources of racial inequities and to deliver Project Amp in ways that are racially equitable and culturally responsive. The inherently flexible, peer-based approach invites adaptation that will best meet the needs of local youth, and values the wisdom and lived experience of communities that have been systematically marginalized.

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Project Amp is flexible and adaptable

Project Amp can be adapted to suit your community’s unique needs. For example, Project Amp can be implemented with or without a screening tool, support youth at varying stages of substance use risk, offer extended mentoring sessions, or take place within different youth-serving settings. Project Amp language and resources could also be adapted to ensure that promotion and engagement reflects local contexts.

Project Amp sessions are flexible in their content, too. Mentors meet youth “where they’re at.” Topics can vary depending on youth interests, preferences, and readiness. Some students may take longer to become comfortable with their mentor, and others may have unique interests or goals that they know they want to explore with a mentor. Some youth may be looking to reduce their current substance use, and others may not be ready yet. Still other youth may not be currently using alcohol or drugs, but may be facing pressures and other risks where a skilled mentor could help.

The Project Amp model allows for flexibility in session structure, length, and content as it best meets the needs of youth. Within this flexibility, mentors are trained to navigate core content throughout the relationship, in person-centered, youth-driven ways.

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  1. O’Connell, M. E., Boat, T., & Warner, K. E. (2009). Preventing Mental, Emotional, and Behavioral Disorders Among Young People: Progress and Possibilities. Washington DC: National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, National Academies Press.
  2. Morgan, S. S., & Yoder, L. (2011). A Concept Analysis of Person-Centered Care. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 30(1), 6-15.
  3. Butler, L. D., Critelli, F. M., & Rinfrette, E. S. (2011). Trauma-informed care and mental health. Directions in Psychiatry, 31. 197-210.
  4. Roberts, G. & Boardman, J. (2014). Becoming a recovery-oriented practitioner. Advances in psychiatric treatment, 20, 37-47.
  5. Barnett, E., Sussman, S., Smith, C., Rohrbach, L. A., & Spruijt-Metz, D. (2012). Motivational Interviewing for adolescent substance use: a review of the literature. Addictive Behaviors, 37(12), 1325-1334.