Intervention Summary

The Hero Project: Cultural/Adventure Rites of Passsage

The Hero Project (THP) is a high-risk behavior prevention program for Native and Non-native youths ages 11–18, which is based on the traditional stories of heroes and heroines from around the world. Through mental and physical adventure-based rites of passage, and activities such as hiking, rock climbing, camping, fishing, archery, white water rafting, cultural activities, and teachings, students awaken to the adventure of self-discovery. By placing their feet in ancient footsteps they awaken to their heroes within.


Each Hero Project is custom-designed for every tribe, school, district, or organization. The program kicks off with a large recruitment event, called An Epic Day, with up to 100 students. The event is followed by the core 8-week cycle adventure program, which meets with a group of between 5–10 students twice a week for up to 4 hours each session.


The program focuses on reducing risk factors and improving assets in the areas of self-esteem; internal locus of control; increased connection to their culture or feelings of belonging; decreased risk-taking behaviors; longer-term perspectives on life; increased positive attitudes toward school and attending college; and an increased perception of the harmful effects of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD).


THP is based on social constructionist and narrative theories. The program has been implemented with Native Hawaiian and Native American populations both on and off reservations, in Hispanic and border-town communities, as well as with Non-native populations in urban and rural settings.

Descriptive Information

Areas of Interest Mental health promotion
Substance use disorder prevention
1: Self-esteem
2: Locus of Control
3: Tobacco Use
Outcome Categories Mental health
Ages 13-17 (Adolescent)
Genders Male
Races/Ethnicities Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
Race/ethnicity unspecified
Settings Other community settings
Geographic Locations Urban
Rural and/or frontier
Implementation History

Originally developed on the southern New Mexico border, The Hero Project ran uninterrupted for over 10 years on the rural island of Maui. Additional adaptations of the program have been created for the Navajo Nation's Department of Behavioral Health Services in Arizona, the Southern Ute Community Action program in Colorado, and the Oneida Tribe of Indians in Wisconsin.

NIH Funding/CER Studies Partially/fully funded by National Institutes of Health: Yes
Evaluated in comparative effectiveness research studies: No
Adaptations Adaptations for Native American, non-native, and multi-ethnic populations have been created.
Adverse Effects No adverse effects, concerns, or unintended consequences reported by the developer.
IOM Prevention Categories Selective

Quality of Research

Documents Reviewed

The documents below were reviewed for Quality of Research. The research point of contact can provide information regarding the studies reviewed and the availability of additional materials, including those from more recent studies that may have been conducted.

Study 1

Gregory, W.L., & Kaufman, K.L. Maui hero project. Outcome evaluation report. Unpublished report.


Outcome 1: Self-esteem
Description of Measures

Self-esteem was measured using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, a well-validated and reliable measure, which includes items with 5-point Likert scale response options.

Key Findings

Among youths assigned the THP, average scores for self-esteem increased from baseline to follow-up; whereas average scores for this outcome decreased from baseline to follow-up among comparison group youths (F = 4.3, p = .04).

Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.6 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 2: Locus of Control
Key Findings

Among youths assigned the THP, average scores for internal locus of control increased from baseline to follow-up; whereas average scores for this outcome decreased from baseline to follow-up among comparison group youths (F = 16.1, p < .001).

Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.7 (0.0-4.0 scale)
Outcome 3: Tobacco Use
Description of Measures

Tobacco use was measured by a dichotomous (yes/no) item from a set of GPRA (Government Performance and Results Modernization Act) performance measures (i.e., Survey Question #120: "During the past 30 days, did you smoke a cigarette, cigar, or use chewing tobacco or snuff?").

Key Findings

The total number of participants who used tobacco in the past 30 days remained unchanged for the treatment group, but increased significantly from baseline to follow-up for the comparison group (Z = 2.2, p < .03).

Studies Measuring Outcome Study 1
Study Designs Quasi-experimental
Quality of Research Rating 3.1 (0.0-4.0 scale)

Study Populations

The following populations were identified in the studies reviewed for Quality of Research.

Study Age Gender Race/Ethnicity
Study 1 13-17 (Adolescent) 56.1% Male
43.9% Female
35.5% White
33.6% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
30.8% Race/ethnicity unspecified

Quality of Research Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the Quality of Research for an intervention's reported results using six criteria:

  1. Reliability of measures
  2. Validity of measures
  3. Intervention fidelity
  4. Missing data and attrition
  5. Potential confounding variables
  6. Appropriateness of analysis

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Quality of Research.

Outcome Reliability
of Measures
of Measures
Fidelity Missing
1: Self-esteem 3.5 3.5 4.0 4.0 2.5 4.0 3.6
2: Locus of Control 4.0 3.5 4.0 4.0 2.5 4.0 3.7
3: Tobacco Use 2.5 2.5 3.5 3.5 2.5 4.0 3.1

Study Strengths

The intervention targets Hawaiian youth, and very few interventions have been tailored to this population. An additional strength is that measures and tools to assess intervention fidelity were used. In addition, the low rate of missing data, particularly for this demographic population, suggests that this study was well implemented. The study assesses program effects on self-esteem, locus of control, and tobacco use—constructs that are particularly important for ethnic youth.

Study Weaknesses

The primary weakness of the study was the use of school-level demographics to assess baseline equivalence between the intervention and the comparison groups. In addition, the length of the youth survey, being over seven pages long, may have led to response fatigue and, in turn, lower reliability for constructs assessed in the second half of the survey as compared with those assessed in the first half.

Readiness for Dissemination

Materials Reviewed

The materials below were reviewed for Readiness for Dissemination. The implementation point of contact can provide information regarding implementation of the intervention and the availability of additional, updated, or new materials.

The Hero Project Replication Manual

The Maui Hero Project – Live Your Myth DVD

Maui Hero Training Description

Hero Training Description: How it Works

Readiness for Dissemination Ratings by Criteria (0.0-4.0 scale)

External reviewers independently evaluate the intervention's Readiness for Dissemination using three criteria:

  1. Availability of implementation materials
  2. Availability of training and support resources
  3. Availability of quality assurance procedures

For more information about these criteria and the meaning of the ratings, see Readiness for Dissemination.

Training and Support
Quality Assurance
3.0 2.7 3.3 3.0

Dissemination Strengths

The layout, graphics, and readability of the hard-copy manual "The Hero Project" replication manual is of high quality and very culturally relevant. A complete curriculum with daily lesson plans is included along with student worksheets, goals, objectives, group topics and other key elements of the program. The DVD segments are well done, providing highlights of key program elements. A brochure with information for the director of two implementation sites (Arizona and Maui) was provided along with a website containing videos and other resources. The appendix contains many helpful items, including an outline of core components, implementation timeline, description of appropriate participants, two job descriptions and a complete intake packet of waivers, permission slips, and consent forms needed to implement the program. On-site technical support and training is provided by a Hero Officer to conduct an organizational/community readiness assessment, develop custom curricula and assist with evaluation. Survey administration protocols and assistance with evaluation are both provided. A Ph.D. - level evaluator will develop, monitor, and analyze project evaluation, to include control group, baseline data, and outcomes related to risk and protective factors and other key elements. The appendix includes forms to assist in quality assurance (QA), including a daily reporting form for the 8-week-cycle, an end of program fidelity tool, a youth participant survey and a parent satisfaction survey. In summary, the materials include an extensive explanation of evaluation materials, methodology, and use of materials.

Dissemination Weaknesses

The extent of ongoing technical assistance is unclear. The consultation and training price sheet lists types of QA materials that are available; however, it would be helpful if an estimate/range for the cost of such services could be provided to assist interested sites (with budget development, grant writing, etc.). No details are provided regarding ongoing monitoring of program fidelity and supervision/training feedback. The materials provided do not mention potential challenges to effective implementation or how these challenges might be overcome. Few details are provided regarding how adherence and competence of the staff in the use of the program's core components will be assured. Materials are not stand-alone but require training to understand and to maintain program fidelity.


The cost information below was provided by the developer. Although this cost information may have been updated by the developer since the time of review, it may not reflect the current costs or availability of items (including newly developed or discontinued items). The implementation point of contact can provide current information and discuss implementation requirements.

Item Description Cost Required by Developer
Initial Site Visit - Year 1 $2,500 + travel Yes
The Hero Project - Replication Manual - Year 1 $250 each Yes
Curriculum Development Webinars - Year 1 $1,000 Yes
Curriculum Consultation Conference (calls or video) - Year 1 $1,000 Yes
4-Day, Pre-Program Training - Each Year $4,000 per year Yes
Follow-Up Coaching (calls) - Each Year $2,000 per year Yes
An Epic Day - School- Wide Recruitment Event $2,500 + travel Optional
Daily Consult - on site $1,500 + travel Optional
Custom Curriculum Development and Publishing Varies Optional
Custom Promotional Media (videos, website, etc.) Varies Optional
Hero's Journey Adventure Gear Varies Optional