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Alumni News: Unraveling Dangerous Decisions

Beth Casarjian goes straight to the source to change kids' risky behaviors

Going straight to the source to change kids’ risky behaviors


TO STOP DRUG ABUSE, gang activity and other high-risk behavior by young people—especially those who have endured tough circumstances—you’ve got to help them understand the emotions and beliefs that brought them to that point. Such intense “emotional literacy,” as Beth Casarjian terms it, is at the heart of The Power Source curriculum, Casarjian’s 11-step program of discussion topics, role-playing, reflective written exercises, meditation and guided visualizations. Described in Casarjian’s 2003 book, Power Source: Taking Charge of Your Life, the curriculum is in use at some 3,500 juvenile detention centers, schools and residential programs. The program also is a cornerstone project of the Lionheart Foundation, a Boston-based non-profit founded by Casarjian’s aunt and co-author, Robin Casarjian, herself a TC alumna.

Beth Casarjian graduated from Wesleyan College in 1991 with the goal of becoming an English professor. She enrolled at TC after working with at-risk youth during a year-long stint as a peer mentor at Boston’s English High School. Working with TC’s Marla Brassard, Casarjian became interested in issues of peer victimization, bullying and parental abuse of children. She is now the Lionheart Foundation’s Clinical Director of Youth Services, leading a five-year, federally funded study of post-prison re-arrest rates among adolescents who were incarcerated at New York’s Rikers Island. “The opportunity to work directly with people in need is part of what drives us,” says Casarjian, the mother of three children, ages 14, 10 and 8. “It’s a great window of opportunity to learn.”  

Published Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011