Project AWARE began in 2003 with a goal to raise awareness about youth prescription drug abuse. The co-founders, Katey Branch and Carl Lakari, believed that if young people took the lead in creating presentations about the issue it would open more eyes and ultimately be more effective. Youth Empowerment Workshops were developed as a main program. This simple effective approach for empowering young people to make a difference became the primary tool to create powerful presentations. Young people would be supported in creating presentations and then take their message out to other youth or adults. Using this model, Project AWARE reached thousands of people with a message about youth prescription drug abuse.
The Project AWARE Players were formed in southern Maine in 2004. A group of high school students came together for a Youth Empowerment Workshop, decided toform a troupe, and then succeeded in reaching thousands of people through direct presentations using theater, dance and song. Finally in 2007 they made a movie to reach an even larger audience. The movie, “Falling”, is used nation-wide as a tool to raise awareness about prescription drug abuse.
In its work with young people, parents, educators, health care providers and others, Project AWARE found itself moving beyond the topic of prescription drug abuse. It’s approach created a safe space for young people to speak up about sensitive subjects such as sex, depression, relationships, peer pressure, academic stress, substance abuse, and more. Young people wanted to make a difference about many issues that impacted them.
In 2006, Project AWARE became an independent non-profit organization and broadened its scope to include any issue that young people identified. Since that time, young people have taken the lead and make a difference about many different topics of concern. The Project AWARE Players continued to offer live presentations and create movies highlighted by their second movie released in June of 2009 “Untold Stories: the truth about bullying and harassment”.
Now almost 4 years later, thousands of youth supported by Project AWARE are participating in Project AWARE’s workshops, presentations and the Reel Life Program and created a total of 7 movies and 20 PSAs. Thousands more are viewing films on DVD and TV. The program supports teens in telling real life stories in a powerful way. Young people create impactful, high quality movies that address social issues and make a difference. Simply put, the process changes their lives.
A 12 person Board of Directors is guiding the organization in developing its own business plan and have created a stated vision: Project AWARE provides youth with the support they need to engage in meaningful and creative conversations, empowering them to work together towards social change.
Well we see it happening. Join us all as we take risks, push up against societal norms and support the voice of youth!