Project Title: The Sisterhood Project: A Stress Management Curriculum for At Risk Girls
According to the Surgeon General, mental health problems collectively account for more
than 15 percent of the overall burden of disease from all causes. The Connecticut Department of
Public Health reports: 43, 000 high school students in CT felt so sad or hopeless for two weeks
or more in a row that they stopped doing their favorite activities and just over 12% attempted
suicide at least one time in the last year. More than 40% of students in grade 9-12 reported they
were harassed or bullied at school and nearly 28,000 have experienced dating violence. For
adolescents, excessive stress can significant impact their academic success as well as
development of emotional and social skills necessary to be productive members of society.
Adolescents affected by unmanageable stress tend to respond with symptoms such as anxiety,
aggression, withdrawal, and maladaptive behaviors including alcohol and drug use. Students “at
risk’ for stress include a broad spectrum of situations including but are not limited to: poverty,
family situations, exposure to crime, truancy, failing grades, anxiety, pregnancy, substance
abuse, physical and emotional harassment, isolation, depression, aggression and other poor
coping behaviors, and physical illness. As public school students spend a great deal of their time
in school and in after school programs, providing effective stress management programs are a
Windham School District is the 2nd poorest district in the State of Connecticut and is
designated an “at-risk” school district, it does not able to meet CT state academic standards. It is
a community of approximately fifty eight percent minority population comprised mostly of
African American and Hispanic populations. Eighteen percent of the students require special
education services with twenty percent as English Language Learners. In the fall of 2006, The
“Sisterhood Project” was piloted with 15 at risk high school girls from Windham High School
paired with 15 college students from Eastern Connecticut State University (see appendix). Funds
for supplies for this project were provided by a grant from the Tri County Women’s and Girls
Fun, the ECSU Vice President for Student Affairs, and the ESCU Women’s Center. Anecdotal
evidence and compliance (attendance rates) indicated this pilot project was a success. This
research study will attempt to quantify these results by replicating this pilot study.
Service learning provides the opportunity for students to explore the relevance of the real
needs of the community, to work collaboratively with their peers, and to serve the needs of the
next generation. This study will examine college students participating in a service learning
project serving as mentors and stress management activity leaders on the stress and stress
management of at risk girls participating in an eight week stress management program. In
addition, this research project will help to establish “The Sisterhood Project” as an effective
community service learning model within ECSU’s Center for Community Engagement.
The foundation of my creative activity is in service learning and stress management. I
have presented on service learning for the ECSU Center of Excellence in Education. I have
published in 2003, an article in the professional publication Great Ideas in Teaching Health and
Wellness entitled “Teaching to Learn: A Service-Based Collaborative Learning Project.” I have
published an article titled “Service-Based Learning: The Benefits to Pre-Service Health
Education Majors” in the American Journal of Health Education. In January 2006, I presented
program titled “Service Based Learning- the Benefits to Pre-Service Physical and Health
Education Majors” at the National Association for Kinesiology and Physical Education in Higher
Education Annual Conference and at the American Alliance for Health Physical Education,
Recreation Dance National Conferences. I have made a verbal presentation titled “Strengthening
and Improving Instruction in Liberal Arts Courses through Service Based Learning” at the
Association for General and Liberal Studies Annual Meeting (October 2007). In February 2008,
I will be presenting to Eastern District Association, a regional meeting for the American
Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance Annual Meeting. The title of
this presentation is: “Stress Management Tools for Our Learning Communities-Now More Than
Ever! “. I am currently writing a book for Human Kinetics Publishers, the top publisher in the
country for publications involving physical education pedagogy and kinesiology, titled: Teaching
Yoga for Life: Preparing Children and Adolescents for Healthy, Balance Living , to be published 2008.
This research grant will allow my continued creative activity development by presenting
the results of this study at professional conferences and in peer reviewed scholarly journals. The
funds will allow for my continued service to the community and the university by the
establishment of the Sisterhood project as an ongoing community engagement program. The
funds from this research grant will allow for my professional development in Mindfulness-Based
Stress Reduction and paying an honorarium to professionals conducting the study questionnaires.
Additional resources, from external grants, will be used for the purchase of supplies for the study
project, incentives for participation for both mentors and at risk girls.
1. Spring 2008
Grant applications to purchase supplies will be made with the assistance of the ECSU grant
officer to the following resources: American Association of University Women, Soroptimist
International of Willimantic, General Mills Foundation, Hello Avon Cosmetics: Hello Tomorrow
Fund, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Luna Bars, Women and Girls Sport Foundation.
2. Summer 2008
A. IRB approval for studies with human subjects
B. Attendance at 8 weeks Seminar Practicum: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Teacher
Training at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society, University of
Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester MA June-August 2008-see appendix)
C. Development of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction curriculum for eight week program
i. Physical components e.g. yoga;
ii. Cognitive components e.g. .increasing awareness of stress reactions and
iii. Experiential components e.g. meditation and music therapy.
iv. Mentoring component: A training notebook will be developed for the mentors including
weekly discussion topics and mentor and mentee team weekly activities. Mentors will be
encouraged to check in via email, text message or a phone call with their mentee at least one
other time each week and also remind the mentees of the next session.
C. Development of self reported qualitative measures tool including severity and number of
stressful events, stress responses, and use of stress management techniques.
D. Selection and training of study instrument administrators including training in scoring and
non biased rating of results of the measures.
3. September 2008
A. Recruitment of ECSU students for Sisterhood Project coordinators, mentor coordinators, and
project producers, and mentors.
B. Recruitment of 20 Windham school’s students from Windham High School by referrals from
community liaisons at the Windham High School Health Center, Counseling Center and
C. Selection and training of 20 ECSU volunteer mentors. Mentors will assist their mentee in
setting stress management goals and accompany them to the weekly stress management
4. October-December 2008 Project implementation
i. IRB requirement for participation e.g. parental permission
ii. Pre test of project participants by study instrument administrators
iii. Implementation of eight week “Sisterhood project”
iv. Post test of project participants by study instrument administrators
v. Analysis of data of measures
As a result of participation in the “Sisterhood” project, at risk students will report significant
increases in awareness of stress and demonstration of an increased ability to effectively use of
stress management techniques
As a result of participation in the “Sisterhood” project, ECSU student volunteers will
demonstrate the ability to lead stress management activities and effectively mentor their at risk
As a result of the “Sisterhood project” administration in the fall 2008, this project will be an
ongoing student administered project offered to ECSU student volunteers and at risk female
students at Windham High School every fall semester.
1. A manuscript of the results of this study will be submitted to professional publications:
International Journal of Stress Management; Journal of School Health; Journal of the
International Society for the Investigation of Stress; American Journal of Health Education.
2. Presentation and or poster presentation proposals will be submitted to professional
conferences: American Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance;
National Wellness Conference; AAUW Annual Meeting
3. Provide an ECSU Lunch and Learn presentation on the “Stress Management in our Schools-
Lessons learned for our students and our community” during spring 2008.
4. Present at the CSU research Conference in fall 2009.
5. Proposal for book to publishers: Human Kinetic, Benjamin Cummings, Rodale Press