Exploration of a College and Career Readiness Leadership Program for Urban Youth


  • Samantha Bates Texas Christian University
  • Dawn Anderson-Butcher The Ohio State University
  • Jera Niewoehner-Green The Ohio State University
  • John Provenzano The Ohio State University




college and career readiness, leadership development, positive youth development, urban youth


Urban youth living in poverty are less socially and academically prepared to access postsecondary education compared to their more affluent peers. College and career readiness (CCR) programs traditionally focus on skill-building to assist with college and financial aid applications, test taking, and career exploration. The Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) program includes these components, but also incorporates positive youth development (PYD) and leadership skill development strategies to further prepare urban youth for college and career through internship, service, and leadership opportunities. Using a mixed methods approach, this study explored youth perceptions of the YLA, evaluating the influence of the program on youth outcomes and distilling what, if any, program design components contributed to their growth and learning. Qualitative findings suggest participation in the YLA was perceived to support growth in communication skills, social skills, readiness for leadership roles, and preparation and knowledge for future college and career opportunities. Additionally, quantitative results demonstrate positive, significant increases from pre- to post-program test in leadership, communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills for youth. Program design components shown to support positive outcomes included positive relationships with peer and adults, skill-building sessions, and applied internship experiences. Findings suggest that PYD approaches with CCR and leadership skill development programming may promote positive social outcomes for vulnerable youth. Implications for intervention, practice, and future research are discussed.

Author Biographies

Samantha Bates, Texas Christian University

Assistant Professor

Department of Social Work

Dawn Anderson-Butcher, The Ohio State University


College of Social Work

Jera Niewoehner-Green, The Ohio State University

Assistant Professor 

Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership

John Provenzano, The Ohio State University

Community Lecturer

College of Social Work


Alliance for Excellent Education. (2010). Fact sheet: High school dropouts in America. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/HighSchoolDropouts.pdf

Anderson-Butcher, D., & Cash, S. (2010). Participation in Boys & Girls Clubs, vulnerability, and problem behaviors. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(5), 672–678. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.01.002

Anderson-Butcher, D., Newsome, W. S., & Ferrari, T. (2003). Participation in Boys and Girls Clubs and relationships to youth outcomes. Journal of Community Psychology, 1(31), 39–55. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.01.002

Anderson-Butcher, D., Stetler, E. G., & Midle, T. (2006). A case for expanded school-community partnerships in support of positive youth development. Children & Schools, 28(3), 155-163. doi:10.1093/cs/28.3.155

Ayscue, J. B., & Orfield, G. (2016). Perpetuating separate and unequal worlds of educational opportunity through district lines: School segregation by race and poverty. In Race, equity, and education: Sixty years from Brown (pp. 45-74). Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

Barcelona, R. J., & Quinn, W. (2011). Trends in youth development research topics: An integrative review of positive youth development research published in selected journals between 2001-2010. Journal of Youth Development, 6(3), 18-37. doi:10.5195/jyd.2011.173

Becker, B. E., & Luthar, S. S. (2002). Social-emotional factors affecting achievement outcomes among disadvantaged students: Closing the achievement gap. Educational Psychologist, 37(4), 197-214. doi:10.1207/S15326985EP3704_1

Blum, R.W. (2003). Positive youth development: A strategy for improving health. In F. Jacobs, D. Wertlieb, & R.M. Lerner (Eds.), Handbook of Applied Developmental Science: Vol. 2. Promoting Positive Child, Adolescent, and Family Development through Research, Policies, and Programs (pp. 237-252). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Blumberg, S.J., Carle, A.C., O’Connor, K.S., Moore, K.A., Lippman, L.H. (2008). Social competence: Development of an indicator for children and adolescents. Child Indicators Research, 1, 176-197. doi:10.1007/s12187-007-9007-x

Caprara, G.V., & Gerbino, M. (2001). Affective perceived self-efficacy: The capacity to regulate negative affect and to express positive affect. In G.V. Caprara (Ed.) Self-efficacy Assessment (pp. 35-50). Trento, Italy: Edizioni Erickson.

Catalano, R. F., Berglund, M. L., Ryan, J. A., Lonczak, H. S., & Hawkins, J. D. (2004). Positive youth development in the United States: Research findings on evaluations of positive youth development programs. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(1), 98-124. doi:10.1037//1522-3736.5.1.515a

Community and Youth Collaborative Institute (CAYCI). (n.d.). The self-efficacy scale. Columbus: College of Social Work, The Ohio State University.

Community and Youth Collaborative Institute (CAYCI). (n.d.). The future self-efficacy scale. Columbus: College of Social Work, The Ohio State University.

Conley, D. T. (2012). A Complete Definition of College and Career Readiness. Educational Policy Improvement Center (NJ1). Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED537876.pdf

Curran, T., & Wexler, L. (2017). School‐based positive youth development: A systematic review of the literature. Journal of School Health, 87(1), 71-80. doi:10.1111/josh.12467

DePaoli, J. L., Balfanz, R., Atwell, M. N., & Bridgeland, J. (2018). Building a grad nation: progress and challenge in raising high school graduation rates. Annual update 2018. Civic Enterprises. Retrieved from https://gradnation.americaspromise.org/2018-building-grad-nation-report

Deutsch, N. L., Blyth, D. A., Kelley, J., Tolan, P. H., & Lerner, R. M. (2017). Let’s talk after-school: The promises and challenges of positive youth development for after-school research, policy, and practice. In After-school Programs to Promote Positive Youth Development (pp. 45-68). Cham, Switzerland: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-59132-2_4

Duncan, G. J., & Murnane, R. J. (2011). Whither opportunity? Rising inequality and the uncertain life chances of low-income children. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

Durlak, J. A., & Weissberg, R. P. (2007). The impact of after-school programs that promote personal and social skills. Chicago, IL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Retrieved from CASEL website: https://casel.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/the-impact-of-after-school-programs-that-promote-personal-and-social-skills.pdf

Edelman, A., Gill, P., Comerford, K., Larson, M., & Hare, R. (2004). Youth Development & Youth Leadership. A Background Paper. Institute for Educational Leadership.

Fann, A., McClafferty Jarsky, K., & McDonough, P. M. (2009). Parent involvement in the college planning process: A case study of P-20 collaboration. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 8(4), 374-393. doi:10.1177/1538192709347847

Fraser, M., Kirby, L., & Smokowski, P. (2004). Risk and resilience in childhood. In M. Fraser (Ed.), Risk and Resilience in Childhood: An Ecological Perspective (2nd ed., pp. 13-66). Washington, DC: National Association of Social Workers Press.

Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research (pp. 105-117). London: Sage.

Henry, K. L., & Huizinga, D. H. (2007). School-related risk and protective factors associated with truancy among urban youth placed at risk. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 28(6), 505-519. doi:10.1007/s10935-007-0115-7

Hernez-Broome, G., & Hughes, R. J. (2004). Leadership development: Past, present, and future. Human Resource Planning, 27(1), 24-32.

Howard, T. C. (2010). Why race and culture matter in schools: Closing the achievement gap in America's classrooms. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Kazis, R., Vargas, J., & Hoffman, N. (2004). Double the numbers: Increasing postsecondary credentials for underrepresented youth. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Publishing Group.

Klau, M. (2006). Exploring youth leadership in theory and practice. New Directions for Youth Development, 109, 57-87.

Knaggs, C. M., Sondergeld, T. A., & Schardt, B. (2015). Overcoming barriers to college enrollment, persistence, and perceptions for urban high school students in a college preparatory program. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 9(1), 7-30. doi:10.1177/1558689813497260

Knight-Manuel, M. G., Marciano, J. E., Wilson, M., Jackson, I., Vernikoff, L., Zuckerman, K. G., & Watson, V. W. (2016). “It’s all possible” urban educators’ perspectives on creating a culturally relevant, schoolwide, college-going culture for Black and Latino male students. Urban Education, 0042085916651320.

Kress, C. A. (2006). Youth leadership and youth development: Connections and questions. New Directions for Youth Development, 2006(109), 45-56. doi:10.1002/yd.154

Kurtines, W. M., Ferrer-Wreder, L., Berman, S. L., Lorente, C. C., Silverman, W. K., & Montgomery, M. J. (2008). Promoting positive youth development: New directions in developmental theory, methods, and research. Journal of Adolescent Research, 23(3), 233-244. doi:10.1177/0743558408314372

Lerner, R. M. (2005, September). Promoting positive youth development: Theoretical and empirical bases. Washington, DC: National Academies of Science.

Lerner, R. M., Lerner, J. V., Almerigi, J. B., Theokas, C., Phelps, E., Gestsdottir, S., ... & Smith, L. M. (2005). Positive youth development, participation in community youth development programs, and community contributions of fifth-grade adolescents: Findings from the first wave of the 4-H study of positive youth development. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 25(1), 17-71. doi:10.1177/0272431604272461

Lower, L. M., Newman, T. J., & Anderson-Butcher, D. (2015). Validity and reliability of the Teamwork Scale for youth. Research on Social Work Practice. 27(6), 716-725. doi:10.1177/1049731515589614

Loza, P. P. (2003). A system at risk: College outreach programs and the educational neglect of underachieving Latino high school students. The Urban Review, 35(1), 43-57. doi:10.1023/A:1022541506588

Lundberg, M., & Wuermli, A. (Eds.). (2012). Children and youth in crisis: Protecting and promoting human development in times of economic shocks. The World Bank.

MacNeill, C.A. (2006) Bridging generations: applying “adult” leadership theories to youth leadership development. New Directions for Youth Development, 109, 27–43. doi:10.1002/yd.153

Maruyama, G. (2012). Assessing college readiness: Should we be satisfied with ACT or other threshold scores?. Educational Researcher, 41(7), 252-261.

Masten, A. S. (2014). Global perspectives on resilience in children and youth. Child Development, 85(1), 6-20. doi:10.1111/cdev.12205

Maydeu-Olivares, A. & D’Zurilla, T. (1997). The factor structure of the problem-solving inventory. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 13(3), 206-215. doi:10.1027/1015-5759.13.3.206

Musu-Gillette, L., Robinson, J., McFarland, J., KewalRamani, A., Zhang, A., & Wilkinson-Flicker, S. (2016). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic groups 2016. (NCES 2016-007). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2016/2016007.pdf

National Center for Education Statistics. (2016). The condition of education 2016 (NCES 2016-144), status dropout rates. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

Perkins & Mincemoyer (2003). Skills for Everyday Living. Retrieved from http://www.humanserviceresearch.com/youthlifeskillsevaluation/every.pdf

Redmond, S., & Dolan, P. (2016). Towards a conceptual model of youth leadership development. Child & Family Social Work, 21(3), 261-271. doi:10.1111/cfs.12146

Roderick, M., Coca, V., & Nagaoka, J. (2011). Potholes on the road to college: High school effects in shaping urban students’ participation in college application, four-year college enrollment, and college match. Sociology of Education, 84(3), 178-211. doi:10.1177/003804071

Roth, J. L., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2003). What exactly is a youth development program? Answers from research and practice. Applied Developmental Science, 7(2), 94-111. doi:10.1207/S1532480XADS0702_6

Rutherford, T. A., Townsend, C. D., Briers, G. E., Cummins, R., & Conrad, C. R. (2002). Leadership self-perceptions of WLC participants. Journal of Agricultural Education, 43, 2, 22-33. doi:10.5032/jae.2002.02022

Rumberger, R. W. (2011). High school dropouts in the United States. In S. Lamb, E. Markussen, R. Teese, J. Polesel & N. Sandberg (Eds.), School dropout and completion (pp. 275–294) The Netherlands: Springer.

Somerville, J., & Yi, Y. (2002). Aligning K–12 and post-secondary expectations: State policy in transition. Washington, DC: National Association of System Heads.

Strauss, A. L., & Corbin, J. M. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications.

Thomas, J., Larson, M., Solberg, V. S., & Martin, J. (2017). Providing Quality Career Development within Youth Development & Leadership Programs. Info Brief. Issue 45. National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth. Retrieved from http://www.ncwd-youth.info/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/InfoBrief-45-Providing-Quality-Career-Development.pdf

Tough, P. (2014, May 15). Who gets to graduate? The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/magazine/who-gets-to-graduate.html

Ward, N. L. (2006). Improving equity and access for low-income and minority youth into institutions of higher education. Urban Education, 41(1), 50-70. doi:10.1177/0042085905282253

Wheeler, W., & Edlebeck, C. (2006). Leading, learning, and unleashing potential: Youth leadership and civic engagement. New Directions for Youth Development, 2006(109), 89-97.

Wolf, J. P. (2007). Sociological theories of poverty in urban America. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 16, 41-56. doi:10.1300/J137v16n01_04






Program & Practice Articles