Extending Learning Time for Disadvantaged Students - Volume 2 Profiles of Promising Practices - 1995

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Teen Outreach Program (TOP) Association Of Junior Leagues International

Tuolumne County Public Schools,
Sonora, California

Key Characteristics


The Teen Outreach Program (TOP) is a national dropout and teen pregnancy prevention effort sponsored by the Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) since 1987, with community sponsors at each site. The key components are (1) classroom group exercises centered around a Life Options curriculum, (2) a strong relationship between students and facilitators, and (3) a community service commitment. The format varies among sites, but the program typically adds two hours a week during the school year and focuses on helping participants develop a positive self-image, concrete life management skills, and future goals. In 1993-94, the program reached 114 classroom sites in 35 cities, including several in the Tuolumne County Public Schools. This profile provides background on the overall national program while focusing on the Tuolumne project.

School Context

Approximately 1,500 students participated in TOP nationally in 1993-94. Nationally, the average age of participants is 15, although ages range from 11 to 21. About 40 percent of the students are African American, 40 percent are Anglo, and 13 percent are Hispanic. Two fifths of the participants are from single-parent families; the parents of about one fifth had less than a high school education. In the Tuolumne County School District, about 115 students from four schools participated in TOP in 1993-94. The district serves a rural, predominantly Anglo population of 52,000. In 1993-94, Teen Outreach sites included three elementary schools and a high school; in 1994-95, the program will expand to two more schools. The Tuolumne program serves about 90 seventh- and eighth-graders and 25 high school students. More than 90 percent of the students are Anglo, 6 percent are Hispanic, and about 2 percent are Native American. The unemployment rate in Tuolumne County is 11 percent; 42 percent of the students come from low-income families.

Major Program Features

Implementation Issues

The program has worked well in Tuolumne County, the program director reports, largely because it has been tailored to a rural community. Transportation is a barrier to almost any social service program in this area because public transportation is not readily available and/or affordable to the students. But program staff structured TOP to avoid transportation problems; the Life Options class is held during the day so students are already at the school, and most of the community service projects are located within walking distance of the schools. As program participants consider sites further from the school, staff are trying to arrange discounted or free public bus passes for students.

The Tuolumne program director recommends that the national organizers of the TOP program train trainers in the Life Options curriculum, instead of visiting each site to train facilitators. The change would save the travel costs of importing trainers from national headquarters and would benefit all sites trying to institutionalize the program, she said.

Evidence of Success

The national TOP evaluation found that in the seven years ending in 1991, TOP participants averaged an 18 percent lower school suspension rate, a 50 percent lower school dropout rate, and a 33 percent lower pregnancy rate than students in the comparison group. Although these statistics cannot be broken down easily by TOP site, the Tuolomne County TOP director reports a more positive attitude toward school among participants. Through participation in service learning, students also demonstrated greater personal, civic, and social responsibility and learned to work effectively with others.
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