This project answers questions about the nature and role of Noble Purpose in disempowered students. How can students be instructed to develop Noble Purpose? How can Noble Purpose empower students and provide motivation and support for success in school and life? Intervention is needed to derail negative trajectories of academic failure, school dropout, and harmful social outcomes in youth with histories of physical and emotional indignities and affronts. It cannot be business as usual.

We use social-emotional and character education techniques to increase student skills for developing and acting on Noble Purpose within the context of already-existing (Standard) middle school advisory classes. However, at risk students might need more: an Ambassador Program that provides instruction in purpose, its related values, and leadership skills for two student-elected Ambassador in advisories. These student leaders facilitate weekly student discussions to enhance purpose and give students a voice in their school.

The project will determine the Ambassador Program’s efficacy and mechanisms of action by testing it in 6 urban schools for 2 years in randomly selected 6-8th grade classrooms; others get Standard advisory only, yielding a within-school control design. Through student and teacher surveys, we evaluate students’ Noble Purpose, related virtues, and indicators of positive outcomes. A series of matched control schools allows for comparison of school-level changes in discipline, violence, and academics.

Scholarly presentations, publications, program materials, and training and implementation supports will allow widespread dissemination. These will eventuate in a professional consensus that synergy of social-emotional skill and character virtue development is essential for academic and life success in young people. We also expect a concomitant transformation of advisories in middle schools to adopt our Ambassador approach to creating Noble Purpose in youth.