Youth development provides students with the critical support and opportunities needed to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally even when they are challenged by risk and adversity. Support for youth development strategies is increasing as new research demonstrates that "school connectedness" is the primary school-related factor that consistently protects students from engaging in unhealthy behaviors. School connectedness is fostered when students feel a sense of belonging at school and find teachers to be fair and caring.
Youth development shifts the focus from deficits to assets and from fixing negative behaviors to building students’ strengths. Research shows that critical developmental assets for youth include a positive school climate, teacher caring, clear rules and consequences, and staff members who communicate high expectations equally for all students, including poor, minority, special needs, and non-English-speaking students.
In 2007-09, 855 districts administered the California Healthy Kids Survey among 7,484 schools and 1.07 million elementary and secondary students.Resilience is a capacity for healthy development innate to all people. Young people are naturally motivated to fulfill their need for love, belonging, respect, identity, power, mastery, challenge, and meaning. When young people experience school environments rich in opportunities to experience caring relationships, high expectations, and meaningful participation, these needs are met. All schools can measure the extent to which their students experience these protective factors by using the California Healthy Kids Survey. For more information regarding resilience and youth development, visit WestEd .