Introduction: American Indian (AI) adolescents living on or near reservations consistently report higher substance use rates compared to other similarly aged youth. Furthermore, they initiate use of alcohol and illicit drugs earlier than other youth, placing them at heightened risk for developing substance use disorders and substance-related problems. A NIDA funded prevention campaign, Be under Your Own Influence, was adapted for three AI reservations. Found to be successful in multiethnic communities at reducing substance use, a new component was incorporated in the field trial for AI youth – having local 11th grade students serve as role models to 7th graders. Role models were featured in media materials (e.g., posters), and they disseminated campaign messages using other communication channels (e.g., assemblies, presentations, activities such as fun runs, etc.). This poster summarizes qualitative data on 7th graders’ reactions to the role models and the 11th graders’ experiences as role models.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with role models (n=22) following implementation of the campaign. In addition, 6 focus groups with 7th graders who were exposed to the intervention (2 sex-specific groups in each community; n=25) were conducted. Inductive data analysis was used to code transcripts.
Results: The 7th grade students were positive about the use of high school role models to deliver the campaign. Most thought of the role models as “successful and motivated without using drugs,” and having “integrity and goals”. Seventh-graders appreciated hearing from older native students versus “outsiders”, bringing them a sense of cultural pride. The majority of 7th graders expressed a desire to someday become role models within their communities. The high school role models helped to reinforce the younger students desire not to use drugs. The 11th grade role models felt a sense of pride in their involvement in positively influencing younger adolescents on their reservations. The overwhelming majority reported increased confidence in being a leader in their school and tribe. Serving in this role was a motivator for them to continue to make good choices because of their responsibility to the 7th graders and their tribe. Many found the experience to be one of the most meaningful during high school.
Conclusions: The use of local high school role models to influence and inspire 7th grade reservation youth was found to be an important and positive aspect of this drug prevention program. While there is a dearth of literature on the use of adolescent AI role models, this finding supports the significance of non-parental role models as protective against substance use.