Project AWARE is a 5o1c3 non-profit corporation created in 2003 with a mission to “empower young people to lead”. An empowered young person is a leader and resource in their community, models healthy behavior and is of service to others. To date, thousands of youth and adults have participated in Project AWARE programs. Currently, Project AWARE primarily serves youth grades 6 – 12 in the State of Maine.
Project AWARE provides workshops, presentations, and the Reel Life program. Reel Life includes the Summer Film Institute for youth as well as targeted filmmaking that produces high quality, dramatic educational short movies and PSAs created by young people.
The Reel Life Program reduces risk and promotes health by working with teens to produce high-quality film products that target a specific prevention health issue of concern for the local community. Paired with a showcase premiere event that typically includes stakeholders from all community sectors (e.g. parents, youth, business, faith community), the process simultaneously empowers and builds sense of worth in the youth, while also providing up-to-date prevention information to the broader community. The dialogue that follows plays a critical role in beginning to shift social norms resulting in healthier young people. It also increases marketable skills in students as they prepare themselves for the job market. As a result of this program, teens with the support of Project AWARE have produced 16 PSAs and 7 movies with 5 more in production about issues including prescription drug abuse, bullying, adult role modeling, teen sexual health, and more. The Summer Film Institute is held in August of each year for youth ages 13 – 18. The goal for the Institute (s) is to create a film product about a social issue to be determined by a group of young people. The film institute attendees produce high quality video, which will be marketed to make a difference and raise awareness about the issue that is identified.
Youth Empowerment Workshops offer young people grades six through twelve, and adults, a unique opportunity to understand the risks associated with unhealthy choices such as substance abuse, bullying, and more, in an open, participatory and safe environment. Youth are engaged directly in meaningful dialogue, problem solving, the expression of complex emotions and an exploration of how to raise awareness and encourage prevention of unhealthy actions. A key component is creating a safe venue that can serve as a springboard for further community- or school-based youth action.
Project AWARE Presentations are available for a wide range of audiences (ranging from young people to the prevention / health communities to legislators) Youth share their own personal stories about teen health issues, facilitate activities that engage the audience, and provide education about the health topic. Facilitators often use Project AWARE movies and PSAs as educational tools.
Health education videos and education materials are distributed by DVD, broadcast TV, online (YouTube, Facebook, and website) and at events. Each of the video products addresses a specific health topic and is intended to start conversations amongst viewers and their communities.
The program goals for youth include increased:
- Knowledge around specific prevention topic (e.g., bullying, underage drinking, suicide)
- Empowerment and sense of being able to positively influence others
- Sense of support from adults
- Positive identify, sense of purpose, confidence
- Constructive use of time and engagement in creative pursuits
- Positive values, including sense of caring for others, social justice, honesty and personal responsibility
- Marketable skills including technical aspects, public speaking, creative thinking, writing, and much more