What is Project TRUST?
Each day, in communities across the country, young people abuse themselves and one another through drugs, alcohol, and violence. Hundreds of organizations from the grassroots to the national level are working to reduce the abuse, but not one group has all the answers. Rather, as Project TRUST teaches, each one has a piece of the truth. A focus on TRUST—Teaching Respect, Understanding, and Student Teamwork—is the piece of the truth fueling the continued success of Project TRUST.
Trust leads to empowerment, and empowered people are less likely to abuse themselves and each other. Society has witnessed the fragmentation of our schools, churches, and families, leaving young people isolated and lacking a sense of belonging. Project TRUST addresses the basic human need to belong by creating and rebuilding communities among young people. Project TRUST empowers youth by enabling them to have a voice in shaping their communities. Young people involved in Project TRUST establish a community contract, learn to function within the community, and are accountable for living within the community. As empowered members of a community, they learn to understand each other, to work together as a team, and to make responsible choices. Project TRUST leads to progressive social change by addressing the underlying causes of abuse and violence.
Middle school faculty identify group opinion leaders, whether their influence is positive or negative. These opinion leaders attend an intense three-day leadership retreat to build a foundation of trust and respect. This is achieved as students separate from their typical peer groups and begin building relationships with peers outside their normal affiliations. Students, empowered by the opportunity to shape their new community, contract ways that they will communicate with each other and participate in community activities. In order to build trust and respect, students are engaged in activities design to break down the clique barriers.
Project TRUST leaders return to school and to their cliques invigorated with respect, trust, and relationships with peers outside their cliques. As opinion leaders in their cliques, they influence others to be more understanding and respectful of those not included in their peer groups. It is truly a simultaneous renewal of a great majority of the student body—whether they attended the Project TRUST retreat or not. The barriers of cliques erode as young people understand what it means to live in a community. The Project TRUST process continues throughout the year, positively influencing the school and community environment. Students are involved in weekly meetings, monthly activities, and service projects to support the positive outcomes of Project TRUST, including the renewed community.
Project TRUST is coordinated by the Peace Resource Center of Wilmington College of Ohio. Funding is provided by Wilmington College, participating schools, community businesses and organizations, and generous individuals. The program was originally founded in 1992 as a collaboration between Wilmington College and Roger O. Borror Junior High School with the assistance of the Northeast Regional Center for Safe and Drug Free Communities. The program now operates in four school districts in southwest Ohio.