What we do

Changing the Odds (CTO) is a positive youth development project of the Morris Heights Health Center School Based Health Center Network, which replicates the nationally recognized Teen Outreach Program® (TOP). TOP is an evidence-based curriculum designed for youth in grades 6-12 that has been proven to reduce rates of course failure, school suspension[1], school drop out[2] and teen pregnancy – all issues that significantly impact Bronx youth.

TOP’s goals are to engage youth ages 12 to 18 to practice healthy behaviors, learn life skills, and have a sense of purpose in their lives. These goals are realized through three components to affect positive behavioral and academic change in at-risk students. 

  • The first component includes weekly lessons on life skills. Each 60-minute session covers different content areas such as self-esteem, values clarification, physical, emotional, and sexual development, relationships, influence, communication/assertiveness, decision-making and goal setting.  
  • The second component provides youth with a compassionate facilitator who guides students in peer group discussions and establishes social norms of physical and emotional safety and mutual respect.
  • The third, and perhaps most important component of the program, is the 20 hours of required community service learning each student is expected to complete with the facilitator’s guidance and direction.

Together, the three components change youth’s attitudes toward school and community engagement, increase their knowledge and skills through service learning, provide supportive relationships through the facilitator and the adults at their community service sites, and increase youth’s interpersonal and leadership skills.

In an evaluation of CTO’s first year of implementation conducted by an external evaluator, Metis Associates, participants reported that  program attendance correlated to

  • higher school day attendance;
  • higher scores on the New York State English Language Arts exams among middle school participants;
  • a reduction in risky behaviors, such as getting into fights, drinking alcohol, and cigarette and marijuana smoking;
  • and increased use of the school-based health centers.

For more details on the Changing the Odds First Year Implementation Data Analysis report, please visit our Results page.


[1] Allen, J.P. & Philiber, S. (2001) “Who Benefits Most From a Broadly Targeted Prevention Program? Differential Efficacy Across Populations in the Teen Outreach Program.”  Journal of Adolescent Psychology, 29 (6), 637-655.

[2] Allen, J. P., & Allen, C.W. (September, 2009). Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old. New York: Random House.