Youth Frontiers to help build culture of respect at Phoenix Middle School

Youth Frontiers LogoDELAVAN – To help build a more respectful school culture, Youth Frontiers, the leading character education organization in the Upper Midwest, will partner with Delavan-Darien’s Phoenix Middle School on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to host a comprehensive courage retreat for the 7th grade class. Youth Frontiers delivers programs that build positive school communities and strengthen student character.

Founded in 1987, Youth Frontiers’ dynamic retreats inspire students to live out the values of kindness, courage, respect and responsibility in their personal and school lives. Youth Frontiers aims to change the way kids treat each other in every hallway, lunch line and classroom of every school in America. Last school year, the nationally renowned nonprofit held 766 retreats for 118,000 students and educators. Since its inception, Youth Frontiers has reached more than 1.4 million through their character development programs.


Click pic to see images from the Phoenix Courage Retreat.

“It’s a very powerful program,” said Phoenix Principal Hank Schmelz. “I’ve used it before when I worked in Madison and there are a lot of great benefits.”

The courage program for the seventh graders will focus on bullying and improving the school climate, Schmelz said.

“It really helps shift the climate to that of kindness and being brave enough to not bully and to accept people for who they really are,” Schmelz said, noting that the seventh grade year is when middle schools across the country start to see a rise in bullying instances.

“It’s a continuing thing that middle schools all over have constantly struggled with for this age group,” Schmelz added. “We want to teach them how to be kind to each other and this program offers a powerful way for them to learn the impact of hurtful words and actions.”

Youth Frontiers staff clearly understand the challenges faced by schools and students every day.

“We teach values – unapologetically – because we want today’s young people to make tomorrow’s world better,” says Joe Cavanaugh, founder and CEO of Youth Frontiers.

As awareness and concern around the issue of bullying continue to grow nationwide, schools are looking for help. More than 7.1 percent of U.S. high school students skip school every month because they fear for their safety, according to the Center for Disease Control’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance. Schools understand that something needs to be done to change the way kids treat one another.

According to the website for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the best way to prevent bullying is to stop it before it starts. Moreover, the best prevention strategies engage the entire school community in building a culture of respect.

“At Youth Frontiers, we believe that every person matters, so we exist to create experiences that build community and inspire human connection,” Cavanaugh said. “In community, we treat one another better. We take ownership to make our school better. We hold each other accountable for our actions. In community, we rely on mutual respect, kindness and moral courage.”

Youth Frontiers offers engaging, high-energy retreats for schools using games, music, small-group discussions and inspiring stories that engage students’ hearts and break down walls between young people. Throughout the retreat day, students begin to exhibit traits of true character – mending relationships, stating acts of courage and respecting themselves and others. Comprehensive follow-up materials also provide a way for educators and students to extend the impact of the retreat.

Youth Frontiers offers five grade-specific retreats – each offering a developmentally-appropriate theme. In fourth and fifth grade, students learn about the importance of kindness and are given tools to build empathy. In middle school, students learn how to find the moral courage to stand up for others. In high school, Youth Frontiers helps students understand the importance of respecting others and inspires students to take ownership to make their school better.

The middle school retreat will have 28 DDHS student volunteers who are coming in to help three Youth Frontiers facilitators. Those kids will bring the ideas they learned at the middle school back to DDHS and hopefully improve the climate there, Schmelz said.

“I’m having a cross section of students come and volunteer,” he said. “It will be a mix of all types of students. It won’t just be the best athletes or the cheerleader ‘rah, rah’ types of students because then this wouldn’t be an authentic exercise. I want everyone attending to get something worthwhile and long-lasting from this retreat.”

Schmelz also expects a few administrators from nearby districts to come and observe the retreat so they can hopefully bring a program to their own school districts.


About Youth Frontiers

Founded in 1987, Youth Frontiers ( partners with schools to build positive communities where students thrive socially, emotionally and academically. Based in the Twin Cities, the nonpartisan organization is funded through a partnership between schools and private foundations, corporations and individuals. Dedicated to building the character of young people, Youth Frontiers also provides online resources for parents to help foster their children’s positive peer interactions.

For information about Youth Frontiers and its retreats, contact Ali Sipkins, Director of External Relations, at 952.697.2660 or Media may contact Jessica Larson, Communications and Marketing Manager, at 952.697.2669 or


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