Engaging the Public in Positive Youth Development
The Public Education Network Middle Schools "Skills for Life" Initiative builds greater district, school, and community capacity to address the social and emotional learning needs of middle school students.

Through this initiative, PEN and member LEFs support high-quality instruction and real-life experiences for middle school students to stem the rising tide of substance abuse, violence, and the related diminished sense of selfhood (low self-esteem, inability to communicate effectively with peers and others, and inability to assert one's needs appropriately) by:

  • Integration in both school and non-school settings of a nationally recognized life skills curriculum and expanded set of opportunities for middle school students to learn and practice emotionally and socially affirming behaviors;

  • Professional development opportunities for teachers, counselors and other youth services providers who work directly with middle school children in both school and non-school settings;

  • Engagement of school and community actors in developing and implementing plans for promoting life skills beyond the classroom, as part of a larger vision of ensuring that all young people have the skills they need to be ready for college, work and life.*

Solid education research has documented a powerful connection between social and economic disadvantage and large and persistent gaps in student achievement. Education policy typically focuses too narrowly on academic interventions. Research indicates that strategies to reduce achievement gaps are more effective when they combine school improvement efforts with broader policies to reduce social and economic inequalities. Academic gains cannot achieved or sustained without a nationwide commitment to a broader strategy of building student self-esteem, efficacy, and resiliency. Equal opportunity, greater prosperity, and educational excellence will only be achieved by providing all students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and supports to adopt positive and healthy behaviors that lead to academic and social success.

Public Education Network Middle School "Skills for Life" Initiative powerfully reinforces three key components of successful school reform:

  • Quality teacher professional development integrated with the school's academic and youth development goals

  • Strong & sustainable school-community partnerships

  • Community engagement that results in policies and resources in support of positive outcomes for youth.

This website features an initiative-wide theory of change, proven tools, effective strategies, and dynamic actions developed by local education funds (LEFs) as they work with their schools, communities and other key stakeholders to transform possibilities and outcomes in the lives of our nation's most vulnerable children.

For more information on initial program sites, click here.

* The Public Education Network has incorporated key features of the framework Ready by 21™, a registered trademark of Impact Strategies, Inc. and the Forum for Youth Investment

Initiative Theory of Change
Learn more about the connection between life skills, positive youth development, education reform, and building strong communities. More.

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Presented by

Funding provided by:
Philip Morris USA
an Altria Company