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Getting to ‘Y’: Youth Bring Meaning to their Youth Risk Behavior Survey

GETTING TO ‘Y’ is an opportunity for students to bring meaning to their own Youth Risk Behavior Survey data. Through youth leadership, partnerships with adults, participatory action research, and peer and community engagement, participants not only experience personal growth and build their capacity for future civic engagement, but also effect sustainable change in youth behavior, community and school culture.

How do we achieve this goal?

Since 2008, leadership teams of  youth and adults from over 100 different high schools and middle schools have participated in this initiative, which follows an action research model.

The leadership teams receive training with experienced Getting to ‘Y’ youth and adults, where they learn and practice tools and strategies to organize a data analysis retreat in their own school or community. The leadership teams then recruit a larger group of peers to map existing assets and supports, decide on strengths and concerns in their own local data, think about root causes for their concern areas, and begin a preliminary action plan to address concerns.

After completing their local data analysis, the leadership teams host community dialogue events to share their priorities and engage in dialogue about how to build youth assets and address concerns. The teams then combine all that they have learned to frame and implement concrete action steps. Local leadership teams receive ongoing coaching and support from UP for Learning throughout the process.

What does Getting to “Y” look like in action?

Watch these two videos to see Getting to ‘Y’ in action

GTY in six easy steps:

Attend training
An adult advisor and five to eight youth leaders attend project orientation and training.

Plan and conduct the Data Analysis Retreat
The core team and a diverse group of 15 to 20 peers they have recruited analyze and interpret the YRBS data for their school or community.

Plan and Conduct the Community Dialogue Event
The core team plans and leads a multi-generational discussion, where they share their interpretations of the data with community members, share ideas, get input, and create preliminary action plans.

Finalize a Plan of Action and Make it Happen
The core team meets to prioritize the next steps, assign tasks, and start making positive changes based on their analysis and discussions.

Reflect and Celebrate
Teams celebrate successes and identify lessons learned.

Keep it Moving
Action steps can be carried forward into the following school year, and the team can recruit new members to analyze new data as it becomes available.

GTY Projects in Action

Created in-school free food distribution.

Created and displayed vaping information posters.

Partnered with local domestic and sexual violence prevention organization.

Attended Emotional CPR trainings.

Participated in UMatter Suicide Prevention program.

Created a mural to celebrate school and community assets.

Conducted social media campaigns around alcohol use.

Arranged for in-school condom availability.

Worked with drivers education classes to address impaired and distracted driving.

Distributed exam prep/stress management tips, goodie bags and encouragement.

Organized a wellness fair.

Initiated positive recognition assemblies and events.

Participated in Bystander Training.

Created and led a ‘safer sex’ game to create dialogue and share information.

Initiated a peer mentoring program.

Created Restorative Circle scripts around equity.

Arranged and hosted parent information nights on relevant topics.


Getting to ‘Y’ has been designated a Best Practice by the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs and is included in their national Innovation Station database. GTY has also been rated by the Vermont Department of Health as an Evidenced-based Practice.
Read a recent blog post on the AMCHP website here.

UP for Learning teamed with the University of Vermont and the Vermont Department of Health to share the story of Getting to ‘Y’ with a national audience through publication in the peer-reviewed journal Health Promotion Practice in July 2019.

Getting to ‘Y’ is part of the Vermont Health Department’s Strategic Plan.

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