Lions Quest began as one teenager’s passion to find a better way to prepare young people to handle life’s challenges. Today, it is one of the most widely used social and emotional learning programs in the world.
In 1975, 19-year-old Rick Little of Findlay, Ohio, suffered severe back injuries in an auto accident. Immobilized for six months, Little found himself with a lot of time to contemplate why schools were doing so little to help youth develop the life skills and strength of character needed to succeed as adults. When his injuries healed, Little set out on a nationwide pursuit for answers, interviewing teenagers, teachers and experts in child and adolescent development.
After a struggle to find initial funding, Little established Quest International in 1977 with the help of a US$130,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to design and develop values-based curricula and drug-use prevention programs. Little went to work creating teaching tools easy to adapt across different cultures and educational systems.
The Lions got involved in 1984 when the Lions Clubs International Foundation made its first grant to Quest International, a grant that funded additional program development and expansion. Later that year, Lions Clubs International formed a working partnership with Quest International to launch a major drug prevention initiative called Lions Quest Skills for Adolescence, targeting middle-school grades 6 through 8. Lions clubs partnered with local school systems to implement the program at the community level.
Over the next 18 years, Lion’s partnership with Little’s organization grew in scope and impact. Lions introduced programs to serve students at all grade levels, from kindergarten through high school. Independent researchers gave the programs high marks for promoting positive behaviors and boosting academic performance.
In 2002, LCIF acquired formal ownership of the curriculum materials. Lions Quest soon became Lions’ signature youth development program worldwide. By 2015, Lions Quest had grown to include 36 languages in 85 countries reaching more than 13 million students.
Lions clubs around the world have been key to the success and expansion of Lions Quest, supporting the program through local funding, coordinating teacher training, co-hosting parent meetings, speaking to youth and undertaking joint service projects with students.
Lions Quest goes beyond academics to teach students how to make responsible decisions, set goals, be accountable for their actions, develop healthy relationships, resist peer pressure and engage in community service.
Teaching materials are continually updated to meet new challenges.
In Turkey, for example, public and private school teachers are using Lions Quest to confront bullying. Mine Guven, a professor of early childhood education at Bosphorus University in Istanbul, is conducting an evaluation of the effort.
“I got involved in the program because the training was so impressive to me,” Guven said. “The challenges are the same all around the world. By using Lions Quest we manage to have peaceful classrooms.”