Colorado State University Study Looks at Impact of Mentoring Programs on Youth Substance Abuse

Do mentoring programs really divert youth from drug and alcohol abuse? A new Colorado State University study will look into answers to that question through a National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse fellowship grant.

Using the university’s unique Campus Corps program, a mentoring program pairing college students with at-risk youth referred through community corrections and other agencies, doctoral student Lindsey Weiler will investigate if mentors can counter the many factors that put youth at risk of substance abuse.

“We know a lot about substance abuse in youth who are at risk, and generally the sooner we can intervene with prevention or intervention efforts, the better their odds of not abusing or stopping abuse,” Weiler said. “We know that a relationship with a competent, caring adult is one of the most powerful protective factors for youth. What this research will help to show us is whether or not a relationship with a mentor is effective in preventing substance abuse.”

It can be difficult to identify youth who are going to abuse or offend because the risk factors and outcomes of those factors are broad. Campus Corps will provide data from youth who have been identified as at-risk through reliable avenues.

The $32,000 fellowship grant also will look at whether Campus Corps helps improve academic achievement and decrease delinquent behaviors. The study will look at nearly 300 self-evaluations collected from youth participating in the program.

Many factors that put youth at risk of substance abuse include difficulty in school, aggressive behavior, instability and poverty. At the same time, youth who exhibit potential for committing a juvenile legal offense or becoming repeat offenders, are at increased risk of substance abuse. Research also shows that youth who are connected to school, have a strong sense of self and responsibility, and are socially competent are not at as high a risk of delinquency or substance abuse.

Campus Corps, a youth mentoring program in the university’s Center for Family and Couple Therapy, was developed to decrease youth involvement in the local juvenile justice system. Local youth are referred to the program through the county juvenile system, the school district and other agencies that come into contact with at-risk youth.

Campus Corps is housed in the Center for Family and Couple Therapy at CSU. The center is part of the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Applied Human Sciences.