Achieving Healthy Mindsets

By Eric Horowitz, Research Analyst, TASC

The Youth Development Institute recently hosted the Thrive Foundation for a forum exploring how community organizations can adapt the foundation’s research-based counseling techniques into programs that nudge struggling young people onto promising paths. The techniques address such habits as developing healthy “mindsets,” pursuing goals and self-regulating.

Representatives from several New York City youth-serving organizations discussed the obstacles they face in applying research to practice in their out-of-school time programs. One common theme was that these organizations, which specialize in youth development, typically spend only a few hours a week with students. One way for those programs to increase their impact is to align more with other parts of a student’s day. For example, a community program that motivates a student by getting him to focus on his interest in music may be unable to provide any actual musical training or experience. If the program coordinates with the student’s school, however, it could strengthen the student’s drive by helping him get access to music classes.

The good news is that according to a July memo released by the state the next round of 21st Century Learning Center grants to out-of-school time programs will likely place an emphasis on youth development programs aligning with the school day. Partnership models similar to ExpandED Schools also could calibrate in-school activities with programming that typically happens after school. Changing the lives of at-risk youth requires coordinated efforts, but with continued progress the difficulties brought up at the forum may begin to fade away.