The S.T.A.R. Program (Serving Teens through Arts Resources) is an award-winning, nationally recognized, evidence-based, multi-session peer education program, which addresses behaviors related to adolescent emotional and physical health. Featuring an ensemble company trained as peer educators and advocates for young people, this theater-based program introduces the tools necessary to promote positive attitudes, build risk reduction skills, and link youth with health care and social services. For over 26 years S.T.A.R.’s edgy, engaging programming with full-length, interactive theater performances and in-depth follow-up facilitation workshops have served more than 100,000 young people develop the skills, confidence, and strategies they need to overcome a range of tough health and social issues which include: domestic and gang violence, cyber-bullying, healthy dating relationships, negotiating peer and partner pressure, deciding whether and with whom to have sex, gender roles and stereotypes, teen pregnancy prevention, teen parenting, HIV and STD’s, sexual orientation, and substance use.

S.T.A.R.’s portfolio of age and culturally appropriate interventions address youth from the 5th grade through young adulthood with specifically designed theatrical productions and educational workshops for each developmental level. Through direct service in classrooms and youth agencies each year, S.T.A.R. provides a safe space for vulnerable young people to gain access to health and sexuality information and skills that can change the course of their lives, without the heavy handed, academically oriented “lecture” style of the classroom that they so often reject. Actor/educators (who reflect the age and diversity of our City’s youth) in collaborations with trained facilitators, craft compelling, relatable characters and dramatic material that models healthy alternatives and explore the attitudes, situations and behaviors that put young people at risk.

“STAR reaches out in an honest and direct manner to the young people of New York’s communities. It is my hope that projects such as this will inspire individuals…to support those who are the most vulnerable in our society. You are to be commended for recognizing the positive influence we can have on the life of a young person if we are willing to reach out to him or her, and for your efforts on behalf of young people who are at risk.” – Hillary Rodham Clinton


What Sets Us Apart And Makes us so Successful
S.T.A.R. is a rigorously evaluated,  theoretically based model, taken from Albert Bandura’s classical theory of Social Learning.  According to this theory, individuals model behaviors that they experience behaviors that are acted out in front of them. Shefner-Rogers found that a critical component of the effectiveness of the theater education model is that audience members watch – and learn – how individuals change their behavior. Youth tend to model their behavior most closely on those with whom they would like or  “aspire” to be associated with.  Because adolescents are proverbially attracted to risky behaviors – and those who exhibit it – this insight is particularly useful in the creation of S.T.A.R.’ s characters who are relatable to today’s youth, utilizing contemporary language, music and clothing. Through this methodology, young people have an immediate, visceral experience of the issues being dramatized. The characters recognize – and may even have succumbed to – the appeal of high-risk behavior; and yet, show how and why they are adopting safer behaviors.  Following the performance, the actors remain in character and the students are  given an opportunity to ask questions, debate outcomes and contemplate consequences in a safe environment, led by a trained facilitator. Those seeking health care or other resources are connected to help at adolescent-sensitive, community-based services.

By involving the students in an experience, theater affects the adolescents’ emotions, using visual, auditory, and active ways of teaching, thereby influencing attitudes and actively engaging youth in ways that traditional teaching may not.  Social Learning Theory underlies educational theatre. People learn how to behave and change behavior by watching other people. In “edutainment,” actors model behavior for the audience.

“With uncommon energy, wisdom and creativity, STAR has developed into a vehicle that is worthy of being viewed as a national model.”

-Leslie R Jaffe, MD, Director of Health Services, Smith College.

Over the years S.T.A.R. has won many awards, among them the American Medical Association’s Award for Excellence in Adolescent HIV Prevention and a Cable Ace Award for Excellence in Educational Television.  The Bank of America named Dr. Cydelle Berlin, S.T.A.R’s founder and Executive Director, a “Local Hero” in 2005.  A multiple award winning full length documentary was made about us by PBS in 1996 which is still shown in schools and colleges today.

 Click here for a sample of our programming.

For more information, please contact Leah Michalos, Program Director, at 212-246-5877 or leah.star.tdc@gmail.com