“[SOS] is truly a life-changing experience for the students and an incentive for them to improve and excel because they know that their ability to participate in this activity is dependent upon appropriate behavior from the beginning of the school year until the Ski Trip occurs. Participating in this new activity encouraged them to want to try other new things, and improved their self-esteem and self-confidence because even though it was hard at first, they learned that you keep on trying and that failing one time does not make you a failure.”
Ida Daniels, Hallett Fundamental Academy
The effectiveness of SOS Outreach’s (SOS) approach is demonstrated through annual pre and
post surveys, which are distributed to both short-term introductory Academy program participants and
long-term University program participants. These instruments measure varying constructs that correlate
with the intended outcomes of the SOS program’s progression.
To measure change between the beginning and end of the Academy program, SOS utilizes the
Individual Protective Factor Scale (IPFS) that measures the presence of protective factor characteristic
found in youth who demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity. Analysis of IPFS survey data
compiled over the past ten years revealed statistically significant positive change for all factors
measured by the instrument. The three protective factors that achieved the greatest positive gain include:
- Perceived Competence
- Neighborhood Resources
- Value in Achievement. Such results
These results are exceptionally encouraging, as they indicate that Academy program participants feel they have achieved a greater level of skill in the outdoor activity (skiing or snowboarding), gained exposure to new and safe places to recreate, and learned about the importance to always do one’s best. However, research demonstrates that without follow-up, short-term results tend to be short lived. Providing long-term support to further reinforce positive outcomes is the purpose of the SOS Outreach University program.
Well-functioning youth have specific developmental characteristics that contribute to their trajectory toward successful lives. For example, successful youth maintain a positive sense of self worth, feel they control their own destiny, develop positive decision-making skills, set goals for themselves, and are engaged with their peers and others in their communities. We know from other studies that youth with these traits are more likely to graduate from high school, and are less likely to use drugs, suffer from anxiety and depression, engage in delinquency or promiscuity, or succumb to other risky patterns. SOS has developed a curriculum to teach and foster many of these traits, which are measured through the University survey.
SOS has utilized multiple methods to analyze University data compiled over the past eight years.
The method that maximized use of available data compared pre and post results for each of the four
years of the University program (independent samples). These results demonstrate no statistically
significant outcomes for the first year of the University program. However, by the end of the second
year, significant positive change is noted in:
- Community Engagement
- Acceptance of Diversity and Locus of Control
These changes persist through the remainder of the program. By the third year, positive change further emerges in:
- Goal-Setting and Attainment
- Decision-Making Skills
Finally, by the end of the fourth year positive outcomes are apparent in:
- Communication Skills
- Frustration Control
- Job Skills
In conclusion, the results gleaned from these evaluation demonstrate both the difficulty and the
potential for changing the trajectory of a young person's life through an intentional approach to positive
youth development, like that implemented by SOS Outreach. The process requires intent and
persistence; intent to change critical beliefs like the extent to which a person believes they have control
over the outcomes of events in their lives (locus of control) and attaining the life skills necessary to
navigate a successful life (e.g., decision-making, goal-setting), and persistence in providing consistent
support over multiple years to ensure each child’s ability to thrive. The results of the evaluation confirm
that SOS Outreach is capable of providing both.