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YouthBuild (YB) programs annually partner worldwide with over 13,000 opportunity youth (those between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither in school nor employed) to build character strengths that lead to lifelong learning, livelihood, and leadership.

A “Mental Toughness” orientation (MTO) serves as the entrée into YB and young people are introduced to the YB program culture with its emphasis on love, respect, belonging, and high expectations. While the core principles of MTO are well-defined, the tactics effective leaders use to promote the YB program culture are not fully understood nor documented.

This project will explore two Big Questions: 1) What specific attitudes, behaviors, and practices of adult leaders contribute to an environment that promotes love, respect, belonging, and high expectations? 2) How can a community of practice (CoP) composed of program leaders of youth-serving programs from diverse contexts build a shared understanding of culturally and contextually appropriate ways to create a culture of love, respect, belonging, and high expectations that promotes the character development of opportunity youth?

To address these, we will identify key behaviors, attitudes, and practices of staff who effectively promote a strong YB program culture during MTO. We will then develop a training curriculum (MTO-Process Guide; MTO-PG) designed to promote these competencies and trial it through an implementation and evaluation process.

Deliverables include: 1) delineation of key behaviors, attitudes, and practices of successful trainers implementing MTO, 2) standardized, implemented, and evaluated training materials (MTO-PG), and 3) establishment of an ongoing Community of Practice (CoP).

The proposed project focuses on developing the capacity for staff to more systematically and consistently create strong program culture designed to promote character strengths needed for opportunity youth to realize their full potential.