Getting to “Y”

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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, 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.

Since 2008, leadership teams of students and adults from over 80 different Vermont high schools and middle schools have participated in this initiative, which follows an action research model. Teams attend a peer-facilitated training day, where they learn tools and strategies to organize a data analysis retreat where they and a larger group of peers will map local assets, decide on strengths and concerns in their own local data, map root causes for their concern areas, and begin a preliminary action plan to address concerns.  After completing their local data analysis, teams host a community dialogue event to share their priorities with their school and community 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.  Teams receive ongoing coaching and support from UP for Learning throughout the process.

GTY in six easy steps:

  1. Attend training
    A lead teacher and five to eight student leaders attend project orientation and training.
  1. Plan and conduct the Data Analysis Retreat
    The core team and a diverse group of 15 to 20 peers they have recruited to analyze and interpret the YRBS data for their school or community.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Reflect and Celebrate
    Teams celebrate successes and identify lessons learned.
  1. 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.


Watch this short video to see Getting to ‘Y’ in action:

Action examples – Vermont 2018-2019 GTY teams:

• Middle and high school teams began planning a peer support group.

• Middle and high school teams advocated with the administration for increased dialogue, training, and education for adults and
youth on mental health, wellness, and substance use.

• High school team created a game to create dialogue and provide information about safer sex.
They shared YRBS data and led the game with high school health classes and at a school-wide event.

• Middle and high school teams began developing a mentoring program.

• High school team designed and distributed an informational sheet about sexually transmitted infections and how to get tested.

• High school team set up a training for adults on how to work better with LGBTQ youth.

• Middle school team created Restorative Circle scripts based on the subject of equality, equity and why you matter,
which will be used in advisories throughout the school.

• High school team hosted a teen mental health and resilience speaker for parents and the community.

• High school team worked with the National Honor Society to create a food shelf within the school.

• Middle school team attended the U-Matter for Youth Mental Health Training, Youth Advocacy Council Training, and Youth Summit.

• Middle school team and principal began weekly announcements to parents and community to highlight facts
about their YRBS areas of strength and concern.

• Middle school team, guidance department and principal are planning a monthly calendar of events to post
around the school, highlighting prevention, assets and healthy choices.

• Based on the GTY concerns, a middle school presented school-wide and at parent evenings focusing on bullying prevention.

• Middle school team is working with their local mental health agency to train students as Peer Counselors
and to implement mental health screening days at school.

• Middle school team partnered with UVM Medical School to develop a student-led education, prevention
and intervention program on anti-bullying and positive mental health support.

• Middle school team sent home a contract to have family discussions around alcohol use and to lock up alcohol at home.

• High school team conducted a random acts of kindness initiative.

• High school team did a bathroom beautification project, to create a space where students can feel uplifted
and positive about themselves.

• Middle school team attended the VAMLE Bullying Conference

• High school team proposed Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice work to the administration.

• High school team attended Dismantling Rape Culture Conference.

• Middle and high school teams surveyed peers about access to drugs and alcohol to inform prevention efforts.

• Middle and high school teams connected with the #AskableAdults Program.

• Middle and high school teams had educational meetings with Circle and the Sexual Assault Crisis Team
and plan continued collaboration.

• Middle school team hosted an education evening around vaping with the VT Department of Health.

• Middle school team created and distributed an informational brochure and educational posters on vaping.

High school team coordinated a workshop for all 8th-grade students in their SU where the
Sheriff’s Department Child Advocacy Team addressed healthy boundaries and relationships,
including information about sexting and its legal ramifications.


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 

 A second publication is in the works to highlight the positive changes in participants’ Health Literacy, Self-Efficacy, Community Engagement, Resilience and Protective Factors, and Knowledge as evident in a 2018-2019 evaluation of GTY impact.

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

What are People Saying About GTY?


GTY 2019-20

GTY 2018-19

GTY 2017-18