What would you do with $1 Million?

Assistant professor Dr. Jonathan Pettigrew traveled to Nicaragua, Central America to answer that question. Through the Department of State/Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs funding over the past three years Dr. Pettigrew, and a team of collaborators and volunteers, has developed customized drug and violence prevention programs for middle school youth. The programs take into account the local culture. Translating materials was about more than changing them from English to Spanish, but integrated local sayings, customs, behaviors, and settings throughout the curriculum.

Through a newly funded $600,000 grant, Dr. Pettigrew and the Nicaraguan team will expand the programming across the Pacific side of the country. New schools near the northern and southern coastal boarders will join the project and also in the central mountain region of Nicaragua. Schools will participate in more testing of the program effects. The newly funded grant will also enable the team to develop a family-based component to offer alongside the school intervention. Activities will commence immediately and conclude in 2018.

Pettigrew’s initial $400,000 grant, awarded in 2014, was to develop a version of the 1990’s “Keepin’ it REAL” substance-abuse curriculum, which originated at ASU, for youths in Nicaragua teaching young people practical ways to avoid drugs and alcohol -“refuse, explain, avoid and leave.” Students learned communication and decision-making skills practiced through role playing, replacing the previous lecture-style DARE drug-avoidance program. Pettigrew and the Nicaraguan team used “Keepin’ it REAL” for the 7th grade program and adapted the Canadian program “Fourth R,” which focuses on developing healthy relationships, for the 8th grade program.

Pettigrew’s program is a culturally adapted anti-drug program with a violence-prevention aspect and was named a “model program” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.