Lack of equal chances for success-the result of poverty, discrimination, unequal access to services, and other factors-affects a person’s health. These patterns of socioeconomic disparities are often the same for disparities in academic achievement. It may be unrealistic to expect to close the achievement gap for disadvantaged youth without addressing wellness, readiness to learn, and the conditions affecting the health of the community. (Dilley, 2009).
In many cases, environmental stressors and limited resources have taught students that they have no choice. For many, poor health, hygiene, negative self-image, self-concept, and self-esteem will make high-risk behavior and poor academic outcomes a reality. But for all students who participate in YLA, positive behavior in the classroom and with peers, healthy choices, academic performance, connection, attitudes toward school, and rates of graduation improve.
YLA builds students’ critical-thinking skills to discern and analyze media and peer pressure, understand relevant positive consequences of their choices and subsequent actions, advocate for their own needs, and develop short and long-term goals to actualize their vision for who they want to be. Urban Tech’s Get Healthy, Get Smart! initiative in its Youth Leadership Program® (YLA) is designed to raise awareness and teach healthy behaviors through a technology-rich curriculum and social emotional learning (SEL) platform, which helps students make the connections between healthy living (nutrition, exercise, sleep, positive social interactions, and avoiding risky behaviors) and the short and long-term impact on health and well-being.
YLA’s social skills and leadership building program has been recognized for excellence by: Kellogg Foundation (1997), PBS (1999), The Ford Foundation (2000), Harvard University (2000, Innovation Award), NYC Department of Education-Region 8 (2004), Verizon Foundation (2005), NYC Department of Education (2005, 2011), and the U.S. Department of Justice (2011).