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 70 different Vermont high schools and middle schools have participated in this initiative, which follows an action research model. Teams attend a training day, facilitated by youth and adults, where they learn tools and strategies to organize their own retreat to analyze data, producing a “Student Executive Summary.” This summary includes three strengths, three areas of concern and a preliminary plan of action, based on an exploration of root causes. The teams also learn how to host a community dialogue event to share their executive summary with the school and community and lead meaningful multi-generational discussions.  The teams combine all that they have learned to frame action steps, which the group implements and assesses. Each school receives 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

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

5. Reflect and Celebrate
Teams celebrate successes and identify lessons learned.

6. 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.



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. It was published in the peer-reviewed journal
Health Promotion Practice in July 2019.


2018-2019 Getting to ‘Y’ Team Actions across Vermont

  • Middle and high school team began planning for a peer support group.
  • Middle and high school team advocated for increased dialogue, training, and education for adults and youth on mental health, wellness, and substance use.
  • High school team shared YRBS data with high school health class and led a game they created to create dialogue and share facts on safer sex.  They also presented this at a high school wide Unity Day.
  • Middle and high school team are reviewing the process to start a mentoring program.
  • High school team designed an informational sheet about sexually transmitted infections and how to get tested and put copies in all school restrooms.
  • High school team is setting up a training for adults on how to work better with diverse groups such as 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 community
  • High school team worked with 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 fact about their YRBS areas of strength and concern.
  • Middle school team posted dangers of vaping around the school.
  • Middle school team, guidance 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 began work with their local mental health agency to train students as Peer Counselors and to implement mental health screening days at school.
  • Middle school team are partnering with UVM Medical School to create 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 random acts of kindness initiative.
  • High school team did a bathroom beautification project, so the bathrooms are a place 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 team implemented a Ghost Out
  • Middle and high school team surveyed peers about access to drugs and alcohol
  • Middle and high school team connected with the #AskableAdults Program
  • Middle and high school team had educational meetings with Circle and the Sexual Assault Crisis Team and plan continued collaboration.
  • Middle school team hosted education evening around vaping with the VT Department of Health.
  • Middle school team created 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, and covered sexting and its legal ramifications.




What are People Saying About GTY?




 GTY 2017-18

GTY 2017-18

 GTY 2018-19

GTY 2018-19