Inaugural Beat the Odds Youth Leadership Pilot Project

What is Beat the Odds®?

Beat the Odds®: Social and Emotional Skill Building Delivered in a Framework of Drumming is an evidence-based, trauma-informed program which integrates activities from group drumming and group counseling to build core strengths such as focusing and listening, team building, leadership, expressing feelings, managing anger/stress, empathy, kindness, and gratitude.

The curriculum was co-developed by:

  • Giselle Friedman, LCSW - LAUSD school counselor
  • Mike DeMenno - drum circle facilitator/Remo Music Center manager
  • Ping Ho, MA, MPH - public health educator/Arts & Healing Initiative founder and director

UCLA research has shown that the assets-based Beat the Odds® program can significantly reduce a spectrum of behavior problems in children, such as those related to inattention, withdrawn/depression, post-traumatic stress, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiance, and sluggish cognitive tempo. The program has also been shown to be effective for students with disabilities. It gives students not only skills for self-regulation but also a way to connect positively with other students. It helps them build a growth mindset that embraces making mistakes in the process of learning.

Beat the Odds® offers an easy-to-follow curriculum in the form of a scripted manual. The program serves a whole classroom at a time and is sustainably designed for delivery by school personnel or individuals without musical experience. It can easily be adapted for any age group and also serves as an effective tool for community building with staff and families.

Thousands of educators, counselors, health care practitioners, and other professionals have been trained in how to facilitate this program with the populations they serve. 


What are the goals of the Beat the Odds® Youth Leadership Project?

The project sustainably prepared school counselors, with the Long Beach Unified School District Family Resource Center, to train 7th grade youth to facilitate this program with 5th grade youth. Next, the project will train 5th grade youth to facilitate this program with 3rd grade youth.

Our field work has shown that pairing older and younger youth brings out the best in both groups. Older youth will gain mastery of social-emotional practices through teaching and role modeling; younger youth will learn from their older mentors. All students will develop new relationships, which can be particularly helpful for fifth graders transitioning to middle school. And schools will have an innovative and sustainable way to build youth agency, leadership, self-esteem, and community.

We are partnering with Asia Moore, MSW, who is completing her PhD in positive developmental psychology and program evaluation/applied research methods. Asia is developing innovative, comprehensive, and culturally-informed assessment methods to capture the benefits to diverse youth in quantitative and qualitative ways.

Diversity is reflected throughout this project in the adult personnel, 7th grade student facilitators, and 5th grade student participants. The entire project supports diversity, equity, access, inclusion, and belonging.


Is your school interested?

We will be continuing to fine-tune the delivery of this youth leadership process starting in the fall. If your school is interested in implementing such a program, please contact

Meanwhile, we encourage you to prepare by signing up for our next Beat the Odds® training on September 23. No music experience is necessary.


Looking to become a drum circle facilitator? 

Our constituents are eligible for a discounted rate on an upcoming drum circle facilitator training on June 23-25 at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA (select the organizational option when you register). The instructors are the masterful John Fitzgerald and Alan Bruni, trainers for Arthur Hull's Village Music Circles Global initiative. (Arthur is the founder of contemporary drum circles.) While additional drum circle facilitation skills are not necessary for delivery of our Beat the Odds® program, the more you know, the more fun you can have. No drumming or music experience is necessary. When registering, select the organizational option for the discounted rate.

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