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Relationships with Caring Adults and Social and Emotional Strengths Are Related to High School Academic Achievement []


By Vanessa Sacks, Rebecca M. Jones, and Hannah Rackers, et al., Child Trends, December 15, 2020

youthCONNECT is an integrated student supports initiative, developed by Venture Philanthropy Partners (VPP), that is being implemented in Prince George’s County, Maryland, in partnership with the Prince George’s County government and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). At Suitland High School, the youthCONNECT theory of change posits that providing college and career preparation services, life skills training, and a connection to a caring adult—all via a coordinated network of five nonprofit organizations working in collaboration with each other and with school staff—will improve students’ healthy behaviors, engagement in school, and social and emotional skills. Additionally, youthCONNECT aims to leverage these improvements into stronger academic outcomes, high school success, and to postsecondary engagement and employment.

Using data from a student survey, school administrative records, and youthCONNECT Network Partner program data, Child Trends found evidence in support of this theory of change. In particular:

  • Students who have a relationship with a caring adult—as well as students who have an adult to talk to about educational and career decisions—are more likely to report strong social and emotional outcomes, avoid risky behaviors, and have better academic outcomes.
  • Students who report engaging in fewer risky behaviors have better academic outcomes.

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