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Boys Hope Girls Hope (BHGH) will answer the big question of whether curiosity, perseverance, and purpose can be accelerated by leveraging age-based youth peer groups for goal setting.

While BHGH’s current model involves multiple adults focused on the needs of each youth (referred to as “scholars”), recent steps toward a cohort approach by some BHGH affiliates demonstrate potential for BHGH and the youth-development field. This paradigm shift is needed to empower scholars to become self-determined adults and to create a sustainable staffing model for scale. Our approach is guided by a promising body of research, including outcomes of a BHGH youth-driven service-learning program evaluated by university partners. We are addressing a void in the field of research on character-building among high-achieving youth of color from vulnerable backgrounds.

Our community of practice (CoP) will comprise leaders and practitioners from five affiliates to plan and implement the middle- and high-school aged peer group goal-setting model. These affiliates are being selected due to their experience moving toward this approach and potential for aligning program delivery. Activities will include in-person and virtual gatherings of this CoP to strategize, examine effectiveness, and share learnings with other affiliate colleagues. Input will be provided by current youth participants and alumni, and research partners will support evaluation and reporting. During implementation, scholar peer groups will engage in a goal-setting process with the support of adult coaches who will empower youth to set and track objectives and provide reinforcement and feedback to each other.

The impact will include increased scholar curiosity, perseverance, and purpose. Deliverables will be a guide for peer group goal-setting that can be adopted by the entire BHGH 16-affiliate network, and two scholarly articles on the processes and potential of youth peer groups to promote character growth.