New Directions Family Services

Table of Contents

Prevention-Education Program

The Prevention-Education Program utilizes techniques and activities that systematically address crucial factors that expose youth to negative or inappropriate behavior and is available upon request to local school districts. A series of twelve 50-minute classroom sessions will be provided by a trained professional instructor capable of identifying and responding to developmental and psychosocial issues of children and adolescents. Topics include the following:

  1. Self-Identification
    Students ask themselves, "Who are you?" This involves three major components of self-identification: empathy, peer pressure, and self-esteem. We explore what the meaning is for all three components and how they interact with one another. Activities include defining problems and discovering solutions in an enjoyable age-appropriate manner. We also explore ways to increase confidence, reinforce positive assertiveness, address peer pressure and vulnerability, and provide a constructive alternative to mimicking negative behavior.
  2. Youth Violence and Aggression Management
    This session explores the impact of violence. We explore the sources of aggressive impulses and alternative negative peer activities and how these activities provide peer-sanctioned, anti-social outlets for such feelings and impulses.
  3. Empathy Training
    This session employs role-playing to teach empathy with others, including perceived adversaries such as authority figures and peers outside the reference group. This provides a powerful deterrent to delinquent activities, which involve failure to identify with or care about the rights and feelings of others.
  4. Peer Pressure, Self-Assertion, and Refusal Skills
    This session focuses on decision-making with respect to drug abuse, negative peer involvement, and the social implications of these activities. Other focuses include effective resistance to peer pressure while simultaneously maintaining friendships, peer group status, and the development of special communication skills.
  5. Youth and the Law
    This session focuses on the rights of youth, the impact of law enforcement, and the identification of the levels of crime and punishment. This teaches youth how to respect law enforcement and understand the impact of criminal behavior on society.
  6. Relationships with Authority
    This session specifically targets the feelings and attitudes of children toward adult caretakers and the authority figures so as to develop non-rebellious forms of communication and conflict resolution.
  7. Substance Abuse and Dependency
    This session explores the social and psychological motives for substance use and abuse, risk factors, and the short- and long-term consequences. It is also discussed how substance abuse is an inherent component of gang culture and is a central consideration in a youth's choice to join a gang.
  8. Alternatives to Gang Membership
    Given the nature of "life on the streets," this session explores different possible lifestyles and the positive social, mental, and physical aspects of success.
  9. Self-Esteem and Goal Development
    Positive assertiveness ultimately requires a foundation of self-esteem. This session explores methods of developing and maintaining self-esteem with emphasis on personal, realistic goal development and achievement (e.g. better study habits, self-control, positive social activities, and communication skills).
  10. Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills
    This session teaches positive self-expression and listening skills through role-playing and other enjoyable activities. Such skills directly counteract the "acting out" and retaliation conflict-resolution models prevalent in gangs today.
  11. Guest Speaker (Role Model)
    A community leader will come and address the group and offer a question and answer period. This session is subject to change due to the availability of the guest speaker and any additional speakers.
  12. "The Choice is Yours"
    The final aspect of success is making the right choices. This session explores the many alternatives to a negative lifestyle with a final overview of the past sessions with emphasis on the main components of success: education, empathy, control of peer pressure, self-esteem, and respect.


New Directions Family Services (NDFS) began as a program under the West San Gabriel Valley Juvenile Diversion Project in 1986. It began as Developing Alternatives and Rewards for Effort (DARE), which itself was in operation long before under the same acronym through the Los Angeles Police Department. The DARE program was an afterschool program that provided recreational activities for youth who adhered to a special "behavior contract" developed to reward the student for diligence and effort in improving their grades and behavior.

After three years and an increasing insurance obligation as a part of the National Youth Program using YMCA mini-bikes, it was determined that DARE needed to go in another direction. Thus New Directions Family Services was born. Through the three school districts from which we pulled our students for participation in our program, we started a school-based program with the same principles as DARE and structured a curriculum that would encompass the components of empathy, peer pressure, and self-esteem.

Our first pilot program was at Savannah Elementary School in the Rosemead School District. The program was a huge success and was expanded to include the remainder of elementary schools in the Rosemead School District (Janson, Shuey, and Encinita elementary schools). The next school year, 1989-1990, NDFS added elementary schools in the Garvey School District beginning with Willard Elementary.

Over the next five years, the NDFS grew to include the Alhambra School District, now including a total of 14 schools and 600 students throughout the Rosemead, Garvey, and Alhambra school districts.

The success of these various school districts was duly noted by the Northwest San Gabriel Valley Administrators Association; Golden Apple Awards were given in 1991 to the Garvey School District and in 1997 to the Rosemead School District. These were among Distinguished School awards to Savannah and Shuey (Rosemead school district, c. 1990) and Marguerita (Alhambra school district, c. 2003).

The continued success of NDFS has also included the addition of an individual counseling component to address conflict resolution and anger management as a follow-up to the Preventive Education Program given in the classroom. This component also encompassed crisis intervention, especially concerning gangs. This was expanded to include the intermediate schools Muscatel (Rosemead school district), Garvey and Temple (Garvey school district), and Marguerita, Ynez, and Repetto (Alhambra school district).

The final component, the Drug Proactive Awareness Program, grew out of its segment in the Preventive Education Program. School administrators and teachers recognized that their students were retaining more information and responding more positively to the methods utilized by NDFS in comparison to the DARE (Los Angeles Police Department) and SANE (County Sheriff) programs offered by local law enforcement. Therefore, the Board of Directors made the decision to sponsor this component, the Drug Proactive Awareness Program, with the addition of eighteen new sessions. Unfortunately, the program did not receive proper funding.

These various endeavors in one-on-one counseling are still ongoing at Marguerita school, where the program is in its eleventh year. In the 2005-2006 school year, NDFS provided the Prevention-Education program at Edison Elementary in the Pasadena Unified School District. NDFS has been evaluated by the state of California and Los Angeles County and has been included in the dissertation of Luann Pannell, Ph.D., for the provision of statistics of youth and violence in the San Gabriel Valley area.