Girl Scout Research Institute

November 2009 Issue No. 8

Back to School: Youth Protective Factors

We know what the research says about out-of-school opportunities and their benefits to the young people who participate.  Yet for many young people, in these most difficult economic times, participating in out-of-school activities is a challenge as families and programs alike struggle to find the resources to administer these activities to their youth.

This issue of our e-newsletter takes a look at school and after school, and some of the latest research regarding factors that help to protect our young people and put them on pathways to success even in the face of hard times.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and look forward to your comments.  You may forward them to us at  If you have in-school or out-of-school success stories you would like to share regarding youth in your communities, please forward those as well.

Stay tuned for our upcoming research study on the beliefs and values of youth titled Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today to be released in December 2009!


Michael Conn, Ph.D.
Vice President
Girl Scout Research Institute
Girl Scouts of the USA


Young people need to know that they are important in the eyes of others.  At school, they need to believe that adults and peers care about them as individuals as well as their learning and achievement.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that this connectedness to school was an important protective factor for youth. 

In the report, School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth (2009), the CDC detailed six strategies that school administrators, teachers, and staff could employ to increase school connectedness. 

These strategies focus on student, family, and community engagement; effective classroom management; professional development and support for teachers; and, a culture of trust and openness in communication. 

Such connectedness is also important as youth transition between school levels, especially from middle school to high school.  

A recent report from Public/Private Ventures, Paving the Way for Success in High School and Beyond: The Importance of Preparing Middle School Students for the Transition to Ninth Grade (2009), examines the transition of middle school girls and boys to high school, and what makes for a difficult or successful transition.

Youth who transition to high school more easily than others tend to be strong in the following areas and skills:

  • Academic performance and perspective
  • Practical life skills and adaptive strategies
  • Social problem-solving skills
  • Healthy expectations and outlook on high school
  • Balance between academic and social life.

Another factor that could help middle school students move to the next level with success is their participation in high-quality after-school programming in high school.  

According to the Harvard Family Research Project's After School Programs in the 21st Century (2008), after-school programs that help youth achieve successful outcomes are accessible, intentional, sustainable, high quality, and implemented with effective partnerships with families, schools, and other organizations within the community. 

After-school programming involving quality youth-adult partnerships can help middle and high school students not only develop academic skills but leadership skills as well. 

The new Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE), launched in 2008, encompasses a variety of leadership opportunities available in Girl Scout journeys, books, awards, and GSUSA Web sites such as A World for Girls as well as other resources. 

Through quality girl-adult partnerships, girls grades K through 12 engage in journeys—a series of program activities—where they discover themselves and their values, connect with others, and take action to make the world a better place.

Each of the grade-level journeys is tied to some of the 15 intended Girl Scout leadership outcomes of the GSLE as detailed in Transforming Leadership (2008), the outcomes evaluation resource guide for the GSLE.  

Girls are more likely to achieve the intended outcomes if the activities are conducted with the three Girl Scout processes of Girl led, Learning By Doing, and Cooperative Learning as detailed in Transforming Leadership Continued (2009)

The benefits of the girl-adult partnership are maximized through these three processes as girls become leaders of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better play today and in the future.


Eighty-six percent of after-school programs surveyed say more youth need after-school in their community.

—-After-school Alliance, 2009

Forty-five minutes of focused academic instruction during after-school increases students' math scores.

—MDRC and the William T. Grant Foundation, 2008

Although 79 percent of students express college aspirations early in high school, college plans can falter if students do not take the necessary steps to prepare for and enter college.

—Institute of Education Sciences, 2009


The Girl Scout Research Institute, formed in 2000, is a vital extension of Girl Scouts of the USA.

The GSRI conducts original research, evaluation, and outcomes measurement studies, releases critical facts and findings, and provides resources essential for the advancement of the well-being and safety of girls living in today's world.

The GSRI also informs public policy and advocacy for Girl Scouting.


Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.


Girl Scouts of the USA is building the
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Watch the video on the GSLE!


Girl Scout Journeys

Girl Scout Gold, Silver, and Bronze Awards

Young Women of Distinction

Challenge and Change

uniquely ME! The Girl Scout/Dove Self-Esteem Project


Girl Scout Research Institute

Public Policy and Advocacy
Washington, D.C., Office

Girl Scouts of the USA

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