Methods: The empirical base for afterschool interventions aimed at high-risk children and youth is reviewed briefly. A theoretical framework derived from principles of risk and resilience (Jenson & Fraser, 2006) and from key constructs of the social development model (Catalano & Hawkins, 1996) is presented as the foundation of intervention elements at the Bridge Project. At its core, the risk and resilience model considers the presence or absence of risk factors and then identifies protective and resilient traits that help children and youth overcome adverse conditions and function normatively at school and in the community. The social development model compliments principles of risk and protection by specifying the processes by which children and youth develop effective skills and healthy social bonds that protect them from involvement in antisocial behavior. Academic tutoring, mentoring, and social and emotional learning curricula used in the Bridge Project are identified and linked to the specific risk and protective factors and social development model constructs that guide the program. The project's longitudinal data collection processes, outcome measures, and analyses are described.
Results: Social development model constructs, supported by knowledge of the common risk and protective factors associated with problem behavior, provide a theoretical and practical model for providing afterschool interventions to high-risk children and youth residing in poor, urban neighborhoods. The development and implementation of Bridge Project intervention components suggests that a theoretical framework is essential to creating, implementing, and testing afterschool interventions. Understanding and, when possible, decreasing risk exposure while identifying and supporting critical protective factors as they influence intermediate and long-term outcomes underscores the Bridge Project approach. Community collaboration and the recruitment and involvement of university graduate students in Bridge Project interventions are described. A brief overview of evaluation results is provided in this conceptual presentation. Findings from Bridge Project longitudinal data collection and analyses are detailed in paper two of the symposium.
Conclusions and Implications: A unified theoretical framework that informs the direction of programs and interventions for high-risk children, youth, and families is necessary to increase the consistency and efficacy of afterschool programs. The Bridge Project afterschool interventions exemplify the theoretical and practical aspects of designing and testing community-based interventions. Methodological issues in conducting longitudinal research in afterschool programs are delineated. Implications for linking theory, research, and practice in community and neighborhood-level interventions for high-risk youth are discussed.