Darnell Bell - recently retired and currently a consultant for the community prevention program of Avalon Carver Community Center - is the creator of the Winners Sankofa Program (formerly known as For Square Pegs Only) intervention and curriculum. He served as the Director of Prevention Services for Avalon Carver Community Center from 2012–2016 and 1980-1992 and has been with the organization in some capacity since 1973. Additionally, he has served as Prevention Program Director for SHIELDS for Families’ Heros & Sheros Program from 1992–2006 and as their Director of Evaluation & Research from 2006–2012. Mr. Bell’s involvement in culture-based, alcohol and drug prevention services spans more than 40 years, having previously directed prevention programs, or being affiliated with prevention programs, at the Central City Community Mental Health Center and the Watts Health Foundation. Affectionately called the “grandfather of prevention”, Mr. Bell has presented at a number of local and national conference on his culturally- specific curriculum and intervention, “Winners”’, and on the importance of culture-based, and culturally specific service models.
The Winners’ strategy for addressing the needs of African American youth dates back to 1977. The practice stemmed from a frustration at the lack of program models and program curricula being developed to address the substance abuse-related and mental health needs of black youth and adults. All of the programs (models) and materials (curricula) promoted and distributed by SAMHSA as “state of the art” for addressing substance abuse and mental health problems in the nation’s communities were developed from a Eurocentric worldview; it was a “one size fits all” approach that ignored the specific needs and issues of the nation’s diverse populations. It was an approach that did not acknowledge the strengths in our differences and presumed that Eurocentric program developers knew what was best for everyone. Though the discipline that would grow to become known as “Afrocentricity” was still in its infancy in 1977, and out of frustration and dissatisfaction with the currently available resources, the centerpiece of the Winners intervention, its curriculum, was developed to address the needs of black youth.
The Winners Sankofa Program (WSP), formerly known as For Square Pegs Only (FSPO) was created by Darnell Nkosi Bell, a Los Angeles-based educator, community activist, and substance abuse prevention professional, “For Square Pegs Only” was a curriculum-driven, ATOD prevention intervention designed for the Watts Health Foundation and implemented on the campus of Raymond Avenue Elementary School through 1983.
In 1983, the curriculum was given a major facelift and resurfaced as the Winners Sankofa Program for the ATOD prevention efforts of Avalon Carver Community Center on the campus of the predominantly African American, Tom Bradley Magnet Elementary School in Los Angeles. The culture-based, curriculum-driven activities of the Winners Sankofa Program were facilitated on the campus of Tom Bradley Magnet Elementary School from 1983 – 2015.
Winners Sankofa Program services expanded to the campus of the predominantly African-American, Transfiguration Elementary School in 2015 and to Transfiguration Middle School in 2016. In 2017, Winners Sankofa Program services expanded to the predominantly Latino, 49th Street Elementary School campus.