American Indians (AI) have historically suffered from health disparities despite funding directed at reducing gaps in health status. RezRIDERS (Reducing Risk through Interpersonal Development, Empowerment, Resiliency and Self-determination) is a novel positive youth development program to reduce alcohol and substance use in high risk AI youth. As Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) between the University of New Mexico (UNM) Center for Participatory Research (CPR) and the Pueblo of Jemez Department of Education (Jemez-DOE), RezRIDERS utilizes a culturally centered curriculum with youth- community involvement to enhance cognitive behavioral protective factors and reduce substance abuse and depression. This R34 grant pilot-tests and feasibility-tests a comprehensive AI program with appeal for high risk youth. Filling a gap in substance abuse prevention, RezRIDERS recaptures historical traditions and addresses the lived AI experience. Initial RezRIDERS activities to develop the adult Tribal Research Team (TRT) (being conducted under a one-year developmental UNM Clinical and Translational Science Center [CTSC] mini-grant) garnered so much excitement, that traditional (spiritual) leadership has voiced strong interest in full program implementation. Under this three-year R34 pilot- and feasibility-test, the year round curriculum will engage at-risk youth in extreme-sport (ES) intervention activities (snowboarding, white-water rafting, rock climbing), directly linked to the sacred cycle of water (mountain snows to rivers, rain, and clouds). Following the R34, a five-year R01 phase would test effectiveness and offer a larger RezRIDERS trial to high risk AI youth in other tribes. RezRIDERS has four major components: 1) Extreme sports paired in activity clusters with;2) indigenized behavioral-cognitive lessons;3) AI adult cultural mentorship;and 4) youth-driven community empowerment/action projects. These activities provide the context for experiential curriculum lessons in core values, optimism, self-determination, empowerment. Experiencing ES with culturally connected mentorship and indigenous values compares with how youth traditionally challenged themselves in nature, as elders taught them cultural practices and community responsibility. The three specific aims are 1) use a CBPR process to strengthen and expand the existing Jemez-DOE Tribal Research Team (TRT) by adding youth representation. TRT oversees all grant activities: cultural refining, pilot implementation, analysis, interpretation, and program dissemination;2) pilot-test and feasibility-test full RezRIDERS program with 10th- grade high-risk AI adolescents;refine program based on findings, and prepare program for R01 effectiveness trial;and 3) assess additional program effects on non-participating youth, families of participating youth, and other programs and Pueblo of Jemez leadership. Although NIDA recognizes experiential outdoor education as a promising practice for positive youth development, there has not been a systematic evaluation of its effectiveness, nor a culturally mentored, extreme sport (versus outdoor education) and empowerment adaptation focusing on high risk AI youth. This grant provides an innovative opportunity to benefit Pueblo of Jemez youth and their community, while adding to the underlying science of substance abuse prevention. By developing preliminary data for a planned larger trial (R01) to further test RezRIDERS effectiveness, we hope to improve the lived experience of AI youth as active individual participants, as teammates, and community members.
The RezRIDERS program fills a gap in substance abuse prevention by recapturing key historical traditions and addressing the lived experience within the AI culture with the aim of reducing alcohol use and depression symptomology among high-risk American Indian (AI) youth. This program provides youth the opportunity to participate in a culturally centered curriculum that promotes extreme sports while receiving cultural mentorship with youth-community involvement to enhance cognitive behavioral protective factors, positive life skills, and to support a healthier community for youth. Outcomes include reduced alcohol use and depression symptomology, enhanced optimism/hope for the future, self-determination, self-esteem and self-efficacy, group and mentor social bonding, and cultural connectedness;all positive protective factors to reduce risky behaviors.