Project Venture: Positive Prevention for American Indian Youth | 2017



“By adopting Project Venture you are joining a new community of youth workers willing to implement a program that is not ‘canned’, but requires creativity and dedication not usually found in other models.”

--- Founder, Mac Hall

Substance misuse has been identified as one of the most troubling health issues facing American Indian (AI) communities. Herman-Stahl and Chong (2002) reported that 17% to 19% of all American Indians’ deaths are related to alcohol. Some epidemiological studies among adolescents indicate that American Indian youth initiate substance use at earlier ages, have more frequent rates or problem use among those who do use, are more likely to have tried multiple substances, and experience more negative social consequences from substance use (Beauvais, Jumper-Thurman, Helm, Plested & Burnside, 2004; May & Moran, 1995; Plunkett & Mitchell, 2000; Oetting, Edwards & Beauvais, 1989; Wallace et al., 2003). Despite reported higher rates of use overall, patterns of drug use for American Indian youth across time parallel patterns seen in the general population of youth (Beauvais et al., 2004; Wallace et al., 2003). Rates, patterns of use and associated mortality rates underscore compelling need for innovation, funding, and implementation of effective prevention efforts focusing on American Indian youth.

The training track Project Venture: Positive Prevention for American Indian Youth (PV) is an outdoors experiential youth development program designed for American Indian youth at high risk for substance use and related problems. Project Venture was developed by the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP), an American Indian-owned and -operated, community-based, nonprofit organization with nearly 20 years of experience in youth development. NIYLP has conducted summer youth leadership camps since 1986, from which grew the year-round Project Venture model. In 1990, NIYLP received its first SAMHSA/CSAP grant to implement Project Venture. The program has operated continuously since that time in Native and other communities, regionally, and nationally, with nearly 30 implementations in 11 States.

Project Venture aims to prevent substance use and related problems through:

  • Classroom-based problem-solving and skill-building activities
  • Outdoor adventure-based experiential activities
  • Adventure camps and treks
  • Community-oriented service learning

The program relies on American Indian traditional values to help youth develop positive self-concept, effective social skills, community service ethic, internal locus of control, and increased decision making and problem solving skills. Project Venture was designed for and tested with early adolescents in grades 5 through 9 in American Indian school and community settings (approximately 75 percent American Indian) in rural and low socioeconomic areas.

Who can participate?

Organizations may propose a team of three to five members. Strong preference will be given to American Indian-serving organizations that can provide an organizational leader who delivers direct service to youth, as well as a team with both “hard” and “soft” skills that establishes regular contact with youth. 

Special skills may include technical outdoor adventure skills, first aid, and CPR skills. These skills may be acquired over the course of the first year, using contractors for highly skilled activities until staff are adequately trained. The “soft” interpersonal skills with adolescents are the most critical and the hardest to train.

Is my organization ready to implement Project Venture? 

Are you ready to implement the Project Venture program? Prior to filling out the application, please review the Readiness Checklist (pdf) to learn more about what is required to implement this program. 

What is required of participants?

Recognizing that it takes more than a 2 1/2 -day training to implement new programs, SAMHSA requests that participating NNED Partner teams commit to the full NNEDLearn 2017 training model which includes: Prepare; Learn; Implement; and Sustain. Read more about NNEDLearn 2017

Objectives and expectations for each NNEDLearn stage for PV are as follows:


The first stage of NNEDLearn involves preparing the NNED Partner team for the Learn stage (on-site training), and requires that team members:

  • Participate in two pre-meeting webinars (dates below).
  • Complete assignments as requested by trainer. 


From March 26-29, teams will attend a 2½ day training at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya in Santa Ana Pueblo, NM. Participants will learn:

  • Core components of Project Venture.
  • Strategies for successful implementation.
  • Fidelity as related to implementation.
  • Experiential education, outdoor education and service learning as related to the Project Venture model.
  • Culturally relevant programming.
  • NIYLP’s approach to group development.
  • Project Youth Venture’s implementation at other sites.


After the Learn stage (on-site training), all PV teams join together in a “community of practice” that receives ongoing coaching to help support uptake of the practice. Team members will:

  • Participate in four 1- hour group coaching sessions with the trainer (from April through August—dates TBD).
  • Participate regularly in the online discussion forum.
  • Complete implementation reporting assignments.


NNED Partner teams are expected to pursue efforts to sustain the practice and to demonstrate outcome and impact as appropriate. Teams will: 

  • Complete follow-up evaluations to provide input on outcomes and impact of NNEDLearn 2017.
  • Create an implementation plan that can be supported by local budget.
  • Prepare a formal agreement with participating schools to ensure support, including active participation by teachers in project classrooms.
  • Use community/cultural resources to guide program implementation.
  • Have access to recreational space and equipment.
  • Maintain staff-to-youth ratio of about 1:25 in classroom component and 1:7–15 in community-based component, in addition to teachers (in school) and service staff (community-based).


McClellan Hall, M.A, Executive Director, National Indian Youth Leadership Project

Important Dates

  • Prepare Webinar One: (choose one only) February 21, 2017, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm ET OR 1:00 – 2:00 pm ET
  • Prepare Webinar Two: March 2, 2017, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm ET
  • Learn Stage (On-site Training): March 26-29, 2017 (Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico)
  • Implement Coaching Sessions: Four 1-hour coaching sessions between April-August 2017 (Dates TBD)

NOTE: Information for all webinars and coaching sessions will be posted on the Discussion Forum. Selected participants will gain access to the Discussion Forum upon acceptance.


Email for any questions related to NNEDLearn 2017. 

Read more about NNEDLearn 2017.