Dropping out of school costs the nation up to $350 billion annually, in lost wages, unemployment, incarceration costs, welfare dependence, and health care costs. Moreover, poorer individual health and well-being result from dropping out. Despite recent reductions in the total number of dropouts, minority students remain twice as likely to drop out as White students. Because the transition to high school is a particularly risky time for dropout, interventions that focus on building academic success and resilience before high school are needed. Enhancing students'academic possible selves and increasing resilience strategies are established methods for promoting school success for minority students. The proposed Phase II SBIR project will finalize the development of See It, Be It, an online dropout prevention program for middle school students that uses narrative generation software to develop individualized stories of success. Building on tenets of Positive Youth Development, this program enhances identification with "academic possible selves" and teaches resilience strategies designed to promote school engagement and foster self-efficacy for minority youth. Strong support for the See It, Be It product was demonstrated in Phase I feasibility and usability testing with key stakeholders (teachers, administrators, parents, and middle schoolers). For Phase II we will accomplish the following three specific aims: 1) fully develop the See It, Be It product, including content for four topic modules (peer pressure, student-teacher relationships, positive self-image, and academic future orientation) and accompanying materials, including iterative testing with minority middle school students (n=30) to establish usability;2) conduct two pilot tests of the full See It, Be It product, collecting daa from minority middle school students (n=180) and their teachers, as well as from minority middle school students and counselors involved in an after-school program (n=120) for students at risk for dropping out (Student U), to determine program impacts on student self-image, academic motivation, and school engagement;and 3) finalize the program for commercialization, conducting focus groups with participating students and parents (n=40) and teachers/counselors (n=9) to inform implementation guidelines and supplemental support tools needed for maximizing the effectiveness of the program. To our knowledge, no other dropout prevention program exists that focuses specifically on the challenges and strengths of minority students and promotes school success using innovative online technology. This Phase II project will be instrumental in establishing See It, Be It as a valuable resource for schools with the potential to reduce the likelihood of dropout for minority students as well as boosting their potential for future career success.

Public Health Relevance

Dropping out of high school negatively impacts individual well-being as well as the overall health of the nation. Predictive of unemployment, lower taxable income, incarceration, welfare dependence, and overall poor health outcomes, dropping out is a major public health concern that requires innovative and effective prevention strategies. Despite recent declines in the total number of dropouts, minority students remain disproportionately likely to dropout. Middle school years are particularly vulnerable to student dropout, making prevention efforts during this period especially critical. The proposed SBIR Phase II project directly addresses the critical need for dropout prevention programs for minority middle school students by finalizing the development of See It, Be It, an online program designed to promote positive academic identities and resilience, bolstering school success for minority students.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase II (R44)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-R (12))
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Tabor, Derrick C
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3-C Institute for Social Development
United States
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