Interesting. Surprising. Inspiring. Weird. Good. Cool. Educational. Reality Check. Creative. Team building. Amazing. Re-energizing. An Experience. Social. Eye-opening. Different. Reflective. Eventful. Empowering. 

These were the words used by youth and adults to describe the Getting to ‘Y’ training held in St. Albans, VT on Thursday, September 29. UP Faculty along with two youth co-facilitators trained four youth teams from middle and high schools in Franklin and Chittenden counties. Funded by the United Way of Northwest Vermont Prevention Center for Excellence 2022 grant, these teams learned about the importance of their community’s assets and how to use the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data to form an action plan to increase youth health and well-being at their school. 

From 9 am to 2:30 pm at the St. Albans Museum, youth-adult teams engaged in activities around the Getting to ‘Y’ program, the YRBS data, the use of youth-participatory action research cycle to understand risk and resilience behaviors, and the potential root causes for some of the issues identified by youth in the survey, all while having fun with their team and getting to know each other better outside of school. 

Talking about Getting to ‘Y’ included understanding the program name. Y = youth and also stands for WHY? One of the program’s goals is to identify behaviors youth  would like to understand and change in their communities. With this knowledge – this WHY, students can be agents of change and contribute to the “ripple effect” of how one small change can lead to more change. 

Youth identified one of the challenges to this work: “it is hard to get perspective on all students.” Youth leaders and adults will need to challenge their assumptions about people and their choices. The data analysis process can help identify the priorities for change and then the group can collect more data on how best to enact an action plan. 

The next steps of project implementation include:

  1. Coaching from UP faculty to participating teams in the planning of their local Data Analysis Retreats
  2. $250 mini-grants to each participating team for use in their GTY action projects
  3. Assisting teams with the implementation of their Community Dialogue Events
  4. Highlighting and expanding the impact of projects through newsletters and other communication strategies. (Read more in our last GTY newsletter)
  5. Providing a facilitated space for advisors to meet and share the work of their teams through an advisory network. 


UP Faculty, Hans Cabra Hernandez, shared that “this was a great opportunity to see youth in action…. youth were highly involved in all the activities, particularly those where they were encouraged to share their opinions and ideas about issues that affect them. Their passion and commitment to solve complex social issues using data and innovative problem-solving techniques such as design-thinking or participatory action research is something that must be praised and replicated in more schools.”

UP conducted a similar training in Franklin, Massachusetts, on October 4th, and will host trainings for VT middle schools on October 25th and VT high schools on November 1st. These trainings are close to capacity, so please contact Sharon Koller for more information.