Mission and Focus: Rhode Island Teen Institute (RITI) is a statewide leadership and prevention program that nurtures skill sets of high school-aged peer leaders, whether traditional or nontraditional, from a broad range of community settings. Youth are trained in individual and community advocacy, decision-making, and interpersonal and leadership skill development, while encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Upon graduation from RITI, youth are offered opportunities to join existing programs and youth groups focused on health and prevention issues.

How to Attend:  Teen Institute will be held August 12-16, 2024 at Camp Canonicus in Exeter. The all-inclusive fee of $25 covers: 5 days/4 nights lodging and food, team-building activities, action planning, Project Adventure, workshops, talent show, general sessions, dance, process groups, and optional activities such as swimming, boating, athletics, crafts, and more. Youth may APPLY TO ATTEND RITI HERE until all slots are taken. (Applicants entering 10th-12th grade in the fall of 2024 will be prioritized. Applicants experiencing economic hardship may apply for a scholarship within the application.) Adults are encouraged to NOMINATE/SPONSOR YOUTH TO ATTEND HERE.

How it Works: High school-aged youth are recruited to apply in groups from school or community sites across Rhode Island. Each applicant will be sponsored, or nominated, by an adult in their life who recognized their leadership ability or potential. Upon completion of a brief interview, participants are selected to attend RITI’s five-day residential training conference focused on personal skill-building in the following areas:

    • conflict resolution
    • problem solving
    • decision making
    • communication
    • assessing high-risk behavior
    • community action planning

Family Group: Composed of youth from various communities, family group members relate to one another while processing the day’s activities. Groups are co-facilitated by Youth Staff, peers who have graduated from RITI, and Adult Staff, many of whom are Teen Institute graduates and former Youth Staff. This mentoring tree is integral to program success.

“My family group felt like a family where it was very comfortable. We are all so very different and yet we get along so well. This surprised me, in a good way.” – Youth participant, August 2023

Action Group: Adventure-based, experiential teaching is the other integral training feature, which “allows participants to make connections between their own lives and what they are learning. As a result, the learning will have more meaning and … can be reflected on and have relevance to the future life of participants.” (Wurdinger, 1996, p.60.) Following three days of team-building and effective communication challenges, each school/community group completes a written Action Plan addressing health or social issues facing youth.

“Action group definitely helped me build my confidence and helped me exercise my leadership skills!” – Youth participant, Junior at The Met School, August 2023

Demographic Profile: RITI draws participants across cultures and classes from the core cities to the suburbs. Our 2023 participant base was 36% male, 52% female, and 11% gender-diverse. Sixty-six percent came from racial minority populations. The staff is comparatively reflective of the participant base.

Outcomes: Teen Institute participants complete pre-, post-, and follow-up assessments measuring individual skill development, high-risk behaviors, psychological well-being, and identification to school and community. Positive evaluation results have shown that Teen Institute graduates:

“TI was great. I had my expectations high and they met them. I am beyond grateful for all the friends I’ve met. Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing…except how much I packed!” – Youth participant, August 2023

    • Experience positive mental health effects
    • Lead/participate in peer educator groups
    • Organize community events
    • Complete community Action Plans
    • Mentor peers in prevention activities
    • Aspire to become Teen Institute staff
    • Participate in statewide prevention efforts
    • Establish youth components to community task forces

Learn more about RITI’s Youth Development in Practice here.

Contact: Program Coordinator Jen “Skippy” Stevens (RITeenInstitute@gmail.com/401.244.7386) for more information.

RISAS is a Recovery Friendly Workplace and an equal opportunity employer.