One of the most effective strategies for cultivating long-term well-being for youth is through educating both youth and the agencies who serve them on the building blocks of positive youth development. Youth Thrive, a program developed by the Center for the Study of Social Policy and offered by Illuminate, employs this strategy with amazing results. 

Youth Thrive is a framework, built on the five protective and promotive factors, as well as trainings for both youth and community agencies. The Youth Thrive for Youth training gives youth the tools to build the protective factors in their lives and among their peers, while the agency training teaches organizations how to strengthen the presence of the protective factors in the lives of the youth they work with.

What are the five Protective and Promotive Factors?

1. Youth Resilience: Managing stress and functioning well when faced with stress, challenges, or adversity.

2. Social Connections: Having healthy, sustained relationships with people, places, communities, and a force greater than oneself that promote a sense of trust, belonging, and that one matters.

3. Knowledge of Adolescent Development: Understanding the unique changes and assets of adolescence and implementing policies and practices that reflect a deep understanding of development.

4. Concrete Support in Times of Need: Making sure youth receive quality, equitable, respectful services that meet their basic needs (health care, housing, education, nutrition, income), and teaching youth to ask for help and advocate for themselves.

5. Cognitive and Social-Emotional Competence: Acquiring skills and attitudes that are essential for forming an independent, positive identity and having a productive and satisfying adulthood.

The Youth Thrive trainings are powerful tools in providing clear and comprehensive information on youth development, helping both youth and agencies to understand the dynamics between brain development, social and emotional growth, and how we can harness the learning that occurs during this time. Youth Thrive builds an understanding around the impacts of trauma, intergenerational trauma, power, privilege, race, and culture on development. When we utilize the buffering effect that the protective factors and positive experiences can have on trauma, we can build and promote positive youth development.

Youth Thrive in Action: Protective Factor Building Events

Organizations that are trained in the Youth Thrive framework are able to host Protective Factor Building Events, where fun activities help youth build the skills they need to maintain long-term well-being. Youth who have taken the Youth Thrive for Youth training facilitate activities that focus on topics such as coping with stress, building social connections, emotional growth, youth development, and the importance of access to concrete supports. 

For example, one activity showcases an erupting volcano, demonstrating the value in learning to manage strong emotions like anger. These Protective Factor Building Events are intentionally designed spaces for youth, where they can be in community, build connections, and help each other gain the skills they need to thrive.

“I watched kids who were hopeless find hope after Youth Thrive”

Shana Shaw, Circle of Parents Specialty Program Manager at Illuminate, joined the team having seen firsthand the positive impacts Youth Thrive can have on a community. As a middle school counselor, Shana led the implementation of the Youth Thrive framework in her school community. Shana saw increased confidence, decreased depression, and a growth in knowledge of youth development in students. Before her eyes, Shana saw youth learning to use the framework as a tool in their lives. Youth Thrive teaches students that they have the power to improve their own well-being, and that their community is depending on them to be a positive force.

Even the teachers benefitted – Shana noticed that the educators who were previously struggling were learning how to identify concrete supports to lean on in tough times. Youth Thrive also helped teachers and students to find the thread that keeps different generations bonded, decreasing biases and strengthening lines of meaningful communication.

Shana Shaw

Circle of Parents Specialty Program Manager

“I watched kids who were hopeless find hope after Youth Thrive,” says Shana. “They were so much brighter and confident about how to move through community after the training.” Shana explained that every single Youth Thrive student is an expert in the protective factors, knows how to utilize them, and are confident in their ability to maintain them in their lives into the future. 

Interested in bringing Youth Thrive to your community?

Illuminate Colorado offers Youth Thrive trainings for agencies and youth, with customizable options for agency trainings. Contact Missy Berglund at for more information.

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