continued from About NATI - History of NATI

In 1985, a group of these prevention advocates met in Denver, Colorado and formed a national prevention association known as the National Association of Teen Institutes. Among the duties of this national organization are the promotion of wellness, prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use, and the education of its membership and interested others through sponsorship of the Annual NATI Conference.

From the very beginning, this group has been distinguished by its national youth wellness orientation, cooperative networking, and innovative wellness programming. NATI is further distinguished by the caliber of its leadership in the prevention field, both on state and national levels.

During a historic 1987 meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, the Association became committed to examining more fully the impact of its prevention/wellness programs upon participants. The outgrowth of this commitment was NATI’s National Prevention Study. This prevention study enabled teen institutes across the nation to better fulfill the needs and to measure the impacts of their programs. Dr. Richard L. Schnell, Assistant Professor of Counseling, directed the SUNY Plattsburgh Prevention Research Project. Dr. Zoanne K. Schnell, Associate Professor of Nursing, served as the Principal Investigator and Sr. Researcher for the prevention research project. The research was funded by grants from NATI and The Research Foundation of the State University of New York, Albany, NY. The Prevention Research Project was affiliated with the State University of New York Plattsburgh’s graduate Counseling Program and the Center for Human Resources.

In 2000 NATI began an evaluation process to become an “evidence-based” model program accepted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Model Programs are well-implemented, well-evaluated programs, meaning they have been reviewed by the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) according to rigorous standards of research. Several teen institutes are conducting their own evaluation process based on Icek Ajzen’s (1988, 1991) Theory of Planned Behavior, which says that human action is guided by five constructs:  behavioral beliefs; attitudes; normative beliefs; control beliefs; and perceived control.  According to Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), increasing knowledge alone does not help to change behavior much.  Youth programs seeking to change behaviors must focus on attitudes, perceived norms and control in making the change to have better results.

In 2005, NATI began to work with Dr. David R. Black of Purdue University to conduct a meta-analysis of several Teen Institutes across the country that follow the Teen Institute Model Framework.  The Association is working with Dr. Black to interpret and disseminate the results to membership.

In 1989, NATI was a five year old organization and we were holding our fourth annual conference in San Diego, California. It was at this conference that youth were in attendance for the first time. Unfortunately, there was not much for them to do other than hang out. At that time, the conference was focused primarily on Teen Institute directors and the information had little relevance for anyone else, especially the youth of the organization.

This lack of programming was an obvious concern for the Board of Directors and the next year in Cincinnati, Ohio we held the first annual National Teen Training Institute in conjunction with the annual conference for Teen Institute directors and staff. It was at this conference that youth members of the organization expressed an interest in serving on the Board of Directors. At that time, there was a single “youth” representative on the Board, but due to an obscure Missouri law, it was generally thought that no one under the age of 18 could serve on the Board. This was a great concern to the youth in attendance who were under 18 and supposedly ineligible to represent themselves. This concern led to the formation of a caucus to further investigate the issues. It was found the law did not apply in this case and that NATI members under the age of 18 were, indeed, eligible for the Board of Directors.

The following year at the 6th Annual Conference and 2hd Annual National Teen Training Institute in Burlington, Vermont, the organization had been informed of the findings of the caucus and three youth members were elected to the board of directors and appointed to serve on the first official Youth Affairs Committee (YAC). This committee was charged with representing the youth members of the organization on the Board and developing the National Teen Training Institute (NTTI) Track at the Annual Conference. All was well the first year, the NTTI Track was developed and wholeheartedly approved by the Board and the YAC had begun to turn their sites toward the future.

In 1992 at the conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, the first vacancy occurred on the Youth Affairs Committee, this was the test. Whether the Board would follow and unwritten policy and select another youth member to fill the vacancy or select an adult member, was a major concern for the remaining YAC members. It was at this point that they began to realize there was really nothing in the NATI By-laws to guarantee the existence of the Youth of the organization demonstrated their leadership skills and caucused about the issues.

  1. No guarantee of youth position on the board,
  2. No system for selecting said youth members, and
  3. No standard definition for who was a “youth”

At the 1993 spring planning meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, the Youth Affairs Committee took the Board of Directors to task on these issues. Through a long weekend of struggle and late nights, the Youth Affairs Committee and several other Board Members developed a proposed change in the By-Laws would address concerns 1 and 3. The youth and adult partnership demonstrated by all involved in the process was phenomenal and all were pleased when we finally had a proposed By-Laws change on Sunday, just before the meeting adjourned. The members at large wholeheartedly approved the revision at the Annual Conference in Portland, Oregon that fall and then the next round of work began.

There was still no established system for the selection of YAC members. The usual Board election system would not work for youth members, because there was no way of knowing who the youth were in advance of the fall conference. Once again, the spring planning meeting, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina, was filled with late nights and long discussions for several Board members. The hard work paid off and by the end of the meeting all three of the YAC’s original concerns had been addressed.

There is now a legal guarantee that three vacancies will remain on the slate of candidates presented to the membership by Nominating Committee. These vacancies will be filled by youth members; anyone who is a freshman through senior in high school at the time of selection, recommended by the current Youth Affairs Committee at the Annual Conference.

The work of the Youth Affairs Committee has not stopped with these guarantees, and among other ongoing tasks they are working to blur the separation between youth and adult tracks at the NATI Conference and continue ongoing leadership development for the youth of the organization.

Annual Conference Timeline
1983—St. Louis, MO
1984—Kansas City, MO
1985—Denver, CO – begin working on by-laws and policies
1986—Columbus, OH
1987—Charleston, SC
1988—Ann Arbor, MI – youth first attend
1989—San Diego, CA
1990—Cincinnati, OH
1991—Burlington, VT
1995—Atlanta, GA
1996—Rhode Island
1997—Madison, WI
1999—Jacksonville, FL
2000—Chicago, IL
2001—Charleston, WV
2002—New Hampshire
2003—Columbus, OH
2004—Princeton, NJ
2005—Atlanta, GA
2006—New Orleans, LA
2007---Chattanooga, TN
2008---Southampton, NY

In 1999 NATI created its first web presence and secured the domain ( The NATI web page was created to promote the NATI image, quickly inform people about NATI and its members, provide resources and recruit new members.

In 2004 NATI developed the Model Framework.