Drexel and Sixers Youth Foundation Team Up to Promote Healthy Behaviors for Middle School Students
Middle school students in West Philadelphia will learn strategies to achieve better physical and emotional health through a new collaboration between Drexel University and the Sixers Youth Foundation, a charitable initiative of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Called “Sixers Creating Opportunities, Resources, and Encouragement for Youth” (SCORE), the behavioral health program will promote healthy behaviors (sleep and nutrition), social skills (building successful peer relationships and effective communication), emotional health (self-confidence and resilience) and organizational skills (time management and study skills) at West Philadelphia’s Morton McMichael School and a to-be-determined public school in Camden, New Jersey. An anticipated 140 children will receive this curriculum programming across three years of program delivery
The program will begin with an 8-week pilot in the spring, and will expand to 20-weeks in the fall. A kick-off event will be held at Morton McMichael School on Feb. 25 from 4 p.m. – 5 p.m. for students, parents, teachers and administrators. Representatives from the Sixers organization and Drexel University will be in attendance.
Drexel’s James Connell, Jr., PhD, an associate professor in the School of Education and clinical director and research fellow at the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, and Brian Daly, PhD, an assistant professor and director of practicum training in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, are co-principle investigators on the SCORE project. They are responsible for developing the SCORE curriculum, training graduate students to implement the program and collecting data and evaluating the program.
“We are really excited to be partnering with the Sixers Youth Foundation to provide middle school students at Morton McMichael School with an innovative program that helps youth develop fundamental skills for succeeding in important life aspects that include physical and emotional health, academic performance and peer relationships,” said Daly. “Middle school students rarely receive this type of comprehensive programming, making them a population in high need of these types of services. For our graduate students, delivering this program provides them with critical “real-world” experience by providing them with an opportunity to connect, and effectively intervene, with middle school students from low-income neighborhoods.”
Graduate students in the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychology will be trained to deliver the curriculum in the respective schools. And, through a consultative and coaching model, building-level staff will learn to implement the program after the first year to ensure program sustainability over time.
The curriculum will cover priority health behaviors for middle school students such as the importance of sleep, appropriate sleep hygiene, and eating nutritious foods and drinking recommended amounts of water. Emotional health lessons are focused on improving participant’s self-confidence and resiliency. Additional lessons will target enhancement of time management, organization and relevant study skills. Participants will learn how to effectively communicate with their peers to help build successful peer relationships. The SCORE program will include small and large group activities on the topics as well as reviews to encode the messages into memory.
The core values of the Philadelphia 76ers organization, including Bring Energy, Push for Greatness, Grow Together and Move Mountains will be infused into each lesson plan.
SCORE will offer students opportunities that may not be otherwise available in under-resourced and underserved communities through evidence-based practices that emphasize skill building.
“Many students in our neighboring suburban schools have ongoing access to school counselors and behavioral health programs that some under-resourced communities do not,” said Connell. “Our goal is to ensure that our inner city schools have similar opportunities for behavioral health support, with the added benefit of partnering with one of the city’s major sports franchises.”
The program is intended to be expanded to additional schools in West Philadelphia and Camden, New Jersey.