Teens Act is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to empower underserved youth graduate from high school and move toward higher education.
We strive to empower struggling, underserved high school students to overcome obstacles that prevent them from accessing higher education.
Our research shows that most public agencies focus on under-resourced students who are already in good academic standing. In contrast, we specifically target students who have a low GPA (2.5 or less); we also prioritize students who are on the free or reduced price lunch program, and students who would be the first in their family to go to college. Based on our project statistics from the past three years, about 70% of our students are ethnic minorities and of those 80% are Hispanic. About 88% of our students are on the free or reduced price lunch program. Over 85% of our students will be the first in their families to complete a college education.
We work with school counselors to identify and enroll students who meet the qualifications designating them as underserved. Many similar federally funded programs focus on serving underserved students who are able to maintain moderately high GPAs. At Teens Act, we know that underserved students whose GPAs are too low to merit the attention and assistance of other programs are the students who have the greatest need. This is why we focus on students at risk of academic failure, a characteristic which differentiates Teens Act from other programs.
Teens Act College & Career Readiness Program
Our College & Career Readiness Program contains four key areas that will provide a pipeline of connections and resources that will offer both students and their parents the skills necessary to succeed. These four areas include:
Student Success Class: Volunteer mentors recruited from the BYU School of Education teach an approved elective course for sophomores during the regular school day at both high schools. Our mentors work in collaboration with the schools’ licensed teachers and counselors to help struggling students increase their motivation and self-confidence. Students in this course will: receive help with homework and study skills, concentrate on improving their GPAs, go on college campus tours, engage in career exploration activities, be introduced to STEM careers, participate in service and leadership projects, and hear from local motivational speakers on a monthly basis. Our motivational speakers offer students the chance to learn about various career choices, receive advice on setting and achieving goals, and cultivate other important life skills.
After-School Tutoring: After-school mentoring allows students to receive even more one-on-one time with mentors in order to complete homework and discuss confusing concepts. All students are welcome to attend this program, not just those from the Teens Act Student Success classes. After-school mentoring is offered Monday through Thursday afternoons, and mentors are committed to be available at that time. We are happy to provide this service to the school as an additional resource for their students.
Parent Support Program: At Teens Act we know that parents are critical to the academic success of their children. We work hard to involve them in as much of the teaching process as possible. Parent nights offered quarterly in Spanish and English allow mentors and parents to collaborate and help students succeed. These meetings equip parents with the vision and skills necessary to nurture their students’ quest for higher education. At these meetings topics include discussing grades, understanding curriculum and learning outcomes, as well as educating about the offerings and goals of the Teens Act program. In addition, assigned mentors call parents monthly to update them on student progress and address any specific individual needs.
Continued Success Program: This program is specifically tailored to help juniors and seniors once they have completed the Student Success Class during the sophomore year . It gives them the resources they need in order to graduate and move forward in their lives. At Provo High, we will invite our students to attend lunchtime workshops on the second Tuesday of each month, during which they will split into small groups of about four students) and meet with a professional volunteer from companies they are interested in. At Independence, we match a college mentor to a student with weekly meetings during class time. (Note: At Independence, students remain with the same teacher and classmates until they graduate. Our mentors visit them during their Connection Class, which focuses on credit recovery.) This program gives students an understanding of the vast opportunities available to them, tracks progress in more personal and effective ways, and increases the number of graduating students that move on to college.
Benefits of University Partnership
A unique and vital facet of our program is the relationship students build with mentors. Therefore, it is essential to have mentors who are passionate and who have teaching and communication skills in order to implement our program. Our partnerships with local universities (Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University) are mutually beneficial, as they offers secondary education majors experience and the opportunity to use their passion and skills as mentors to help under-resourced students. This mentorship not only provides them with valuable teaching experience, but helps them develop multicultural sensitivity and a deeper understanding of diversity in the classroom while preparing them to be leaders in their schools and communities.
In addition, this partnership will prepare secondary education students to become future educational leaders in their schools and communities by working closely with high school teachers, counselors, administrators, and community leaders throughout the school year. Our partnerships with the local universities help us ensure the long-term sustainability of Teens Act by providing qualified volunteer mentors from among the secondary education students.
“I’m learning how to teach, do classroom management, create curriculum and lesson plans, work with a team, and building positive relationships with school faculty. It’s aligning perfectly with what I want to do.” - Jason Miller (Independence High School Teacher 2012)
Teens Act Goals and Aims
At Teens Act we strive to increase students’ motivation and academic success. To this end, we have three main objectives:
- Mentor Relationship: We believe having a solid support network is vital for student success. We provide this support through mentors. Each student is paired with a qualified mentor who offers them academic and emotional encouragement throughout the year. We accomplish this objective through individual & group projects, weekly grade checks and goal setting, daily homework help, and an introduction to local resources, i.e. local schools, businesses, organizations, etc.
- Academic empowerment:We hope to inspire our students to reach their potential academically. We accomplish this objective in three different ways:
College aspiration: We strive to instill within our students a deep motivation to seek higher education. We accomplish this objective primarily through guest speakers, college tours, and college recruiter visits.
Career development: We expose our students to a variety of careers to get them thinking about how their interests may coincide with a future career path. We also equip our students with the skills necessary to enter the workforce, including resume & cover letter workshops, mock interviews, etc.
Academic Improvement: We assist our students in their efforts toward academic success by guiding and supporting them in credit recovery and G.P.A. improvement. We accomplish this goal by offering homework time during each class period with the assistance of qualified mentors and teachers.
- Acquisition of non-cognitive skills: A primary objective of our program is to encourage the development of social and emotional skills that our students will need to succeed. We strive to motivate our students and change their mindsets. We help them realize the value of education and give them the self-confidence they need to pursue their goals. We accomplish this objective primarily through motivational lessons, incorporation of media into the classroom, interactive group activities, individual and group projects and presentations, and community service projects
Teens Act measures program success based on key indicators. We constantly evaluate our indicators and create a series of benchmarks related to our desired outcomes for the students we serve to give ourselves specific goals to work towards. Achieving these outcomes helps to create a functional and successful program. As we achieve specific goals we raise our benchmarks to achieve higher goals.
Because the main purpose of our program is to improve student performance in order to encourage both high school graduation and higher education, the majority of our benchmarks are based on student academic performance.
90% of students regularly participating in the program will progress to the next grade on time.
80% of the project’s participants identified as having a school attendance problem will improve their attendance rate.
80% of students will improve their overall GPAs.
80% of students will improve their ratio of failing to passing classes.
80% of students will decrease the number of assignments missing per month.
70% of the project’s participants who graduate high school will enroll in a post-secondary institute.
In addition to academic performance, attaining life skills is important to achieving student success and helping motivate students to move forward with graduation and higher education.
85 % of students will:
increase in their motivation
increase in their self-esteem
increase in their integrity
increase in their work ethic
improve their attitudes
become more responsible
become more resilient
increase ability to resist to peer pressure
We will continue to measure our success through the following evaluation methods, and we publish a quarterly report and annual report to report back to school administrators, donors, sponsors, and our community partners.
Student achievement data will be collected for Teens Act participants on a daily basis using a student progress database that will track items such as missing homework assignments, course grades, school attendance, and overall GPAs, as well as other data that is needed to assess retention and completion by semester and year.
Individual and small group interviews will be conducted mid-year and at year-end regarding student experiences within the program and will enable us to obtain more detailed data about a student’s personal growth, change in attitude and educational outlook, Students will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the program’s effectiveness for meeting their individual goals.
Once a student completes the program they will be asked to repeat the post-Teens Act survey, and school achievement data will be collected for comparison with previous data. Analyses will indicate to what extent the gains realized during Teens Act program participation continued in the year following program participation.
In addition to our own efforts, the BYU McKay School of Education received a research grant which will fund a two-year study of the most impactful student behaviors for assignment completion. This research will be used to train Teens Act mentors to help students adopt and use the essential behaviors.
Evidence-Based Curriculum and Model
We have a researched, evidence-based curriculum similar to those of Believe in College and Realizing the College Dream. Realizing the College Dream was developed by ECMC Foundation partnered with the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Educational Partnerships. We implement this curriculum for our students' specific needs in our own curriculum that we have developed in the past five years based on our experience and feedback from students and mentors. The lessons and values learned in these programs are carried with the students and their parents for the rest of their lives. During the summer break, Teens Act is able to focus on evaluating the curriculum and program and taking steps to improve.
The mentor-student relationship
makes Teens Act special not only in terms of its impact on students, but also in the scope of research. Programs exist that offer a similar “near peer” mentoring system, but few are as data driven. Teens Act is determined to show our results in a quantifiable manner truly sets us apart from most other mentorship programs.
In “Perceptions of the Effectiveness of Interventions for At-Risk Students” (Canadian Journal of Education, 1997), scholar Genevieve Johnson finds that principals in inner-city schools overwhelmingly perceive student intervention programs (which includes mentorship programs) as effective in long term benefits for at-risk students. Parents also typically view “near peer” mentorship programs as highly beneficial for their children who are in high school (Conley, A S.M.A.R.T Approach to Helping At-Risk Students, American Secondary Education, 1993). However, the actual, not just perceived, effect on students themselves is the key variable here. A study published by the University of North Carolina found that students engaged in these programs consistently improved in measures of self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth (Daugherty & Compton, the High School Journal, Vol 80, 1996). Gains in life skills are among the most valuable outcomes of a “near peer” mentorship program.
At Teens Act, we strive to develop these life skills through the influence of mentors and through curriculum devoted to encouraging these skills However, we are most proud of the mentors who are part of the program.Further evidence about the effectiveness of mentorship can be found in many other scholarly articles, including the work of Herrera (Child Development, Vol 82, 2011), McPartland (American Journal of Education, Vol 99, 1991), Shields (Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol 49, 2001), and Dubois (Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Vol 12, 2011). The Dubois article contains a systematic look at over 73 different programs. Their main conclusion in the article was that student intervention programs that involved mentorship were indeed effective and a good method of reaching students. Here at Teens Act, we have found this to be true first-hand and are pleased that the national literature supports this model.
Teens Act Resources
*Click HERE to read our reports and watch videos
*Click HERE to read BYU Sociology Department's focus groups report of Teens Act