National program focuses on respect, character building and wiping out bullying
To help build a more respectful school culture, Youth Frontiers, a character education organization in the Upper Midwest, partnered with Dayton Elementary School recently. The Kindness Retreat for the 4th grade class focused on the importance of being respected and valued. Youth Frontiers delivers programs that build positive school communities and strengthen student character in schools across the country. Addressing the issue of bullying is a key component of their hands-on program.
For the past 25 years, Youth Frontiers has aimed to strengthen core values, confront negative behaviors and enable students to recognize the consequences of their actions. Since its inception, Youth Frontiers has reached more than one million students.
“We teach values unapologetically,” says Youth Frontiers founder and CEO Joe Cavanaugh, who General Colin Powell has described as “a leader in our nation’s effort to rescue America’s young people.”
Through a day-long retreat type setting in the school, Youth Frontiers uses interactive games, music, small discussion groups and gripping stories to break down walls between young people, helping them to see each other differently. Throughout the retreat day, students begin to exhibit traits of true character – mending relationships, stating acts of courage and respecting themselves and others. Comprehensive follow-up materials also provide a way for educators and students to extend the impact of the retreat.
“Our mission is to change the way students treat each other in every hallway, lunch line and classroom of every school in America,” says Cavanaugh. “We are not succeeding as a society if our children receive an ‘A’ in Math… and an ‘F’ in life.”
Bullying remains prevalent challenge
Bullying remains a key issue and can have serious negative consequences for students not just while they’re in school, but also throughout their lives. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center, almost 30 percent of youth (more than 5.7 million) in the United States are estimated to be involved in bullying – as either a bully or as a target of bullying.
The issue of bullying is complicated by the lack of intervention from adults and peers. As Youth Frontiers strives to create a healthier school climate in which students can thrive academically, socially and emotionally, the organization engages the 80 percent of students who aren’t bullied or bully themselves – known as “bystanders” – to no longer stand by and watch others being bullied. In a study with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, a month after a Youth Frontiers retreat, more than eight of 10 students strongly or somewhat agree that other students are more likely to help someone who is being picked on.
“For more than two decades, I’ve been listening to kids talk about physically threatening and emotionally scarring experiences at the hands of bullies,” says Cavanaugh. “At the same time, I have witnessed how strongly our youth respond to positive messages. I know from Youth Frontiers’ own quantitative assessments that positive messages create a catalyst for change in our schools. We must continue to work together to implement an important dialogue, bring preventative measures and place issues of bullying and character education at the top of our priority list.”
Youth Frontiers has three grade-specific tiers, each offering targeted themes. In fourth and fifth grade, kids learn about the importance of kindness at a young age. Hearing how their own actions can make a difference, they become empowered to end bullying in their school. In middle school, youth learn how to overcome their own fears so that they can find the moral courage to stand up for someone else who is being picked on. In high school, Youth Frontiers teaches self-respect and the importance of respecting others. The students take ownership for creating a safe and respectful school culture.
Founded in 1987 and based in the Twin Cities, Youth Frontiers, Inc. (www.YouthFrontiers.org) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to building the character of young people. In addition, they provide online resources for parents to help foster their children’s positive peer interactions. Youth Frontiers is funded through a partnership between schools and private foundations, corporations and individuals.