Reconnecting Youth2024-05-08T11:29:31-07:00

Reconnecting Youth A Peer Group Approach to Building Life Skills

What is Reconnecting Youth?

Reconnecting Youth (RY) is an evidence-based prevention program for teens at risk for school dropout and co-occurring problems. RY includes a semester-long class, with just 10-12 students, that can be integrated into any middle or high school setting and offered for a grade and credit. The RY Class combines a positive peer group culture with skills training in five engaging modules:

  • Getting Started

  • Self-Esteem Enhancement

  • Decision Making

  • Personal Control

  • Interpersonal Communication

What are the Goals?

The goals of RY are to help youth build coping skills and competencies, increase time spent in healthy activities, and enhance social support resources. All RY students work on and support others in the RY Program Goals:

  • Increased School Achievement

  • Increased Mood Management

  • Decreased Drug Involvement

How Does it Work?

The Reconnecting Youth Program has been rigorously tested and is included on multiple Evidence-Based Programs listings.

  • The RY program begins with an individual invitation to join. Youth must be offered an option and not mandated to take RY.

  • RY is taught in a small-group context with a teacher-to-student ratio of 1:10-12.

  • trained Facilitator teaches the RY class within the regular school day.

  • Class structure and process includes student participation and responsibilities for decision making and problem solving.

  • RY is a skills training curriculum embedded in a positive peer group culture.

Please join a Facilitator Training Series to learn all about how and why Reconnecting Youth works!

Who Can Participate?

An RY Class is designed to serve middle & high school students who:

  • Are behind in credits for their grade level

  • Are in the top 25th percentile for absences

  • Have a GPA of less than 2.3 or a recent steep drop in grades

  • Have a prior dropout status

  • Or are referred by school personnel & meet 1 or more of the above criteria

RY also incorporates several social support mechanisms for participating youth:

  • Bonding activities to improve teens’ relationships and improve their repertoire of safe, healthy activities

  • Development of a crisis response plan that details the school’s suicide prevention approaches

  • Active parental consent for their teen’s participation and ongoing support of their teen’s RY goals


Has been shown to reduce suicide-risk behaviors, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, anger, and drug involvement; while increasing school bonding and social support resources.

  • Increased School Performance – grades, attendance, and credits earned.
  • Increased Mood Management – depression, hopelessness, anxiety, and anger-control.
  • Decreased Drug Involvement – alcohol, marijuana, and hard drug use, drug use control problems and adverse drug use consequences.
  • Decreased Suicide Risk Factors – global suicide risk behaviors, including positive attitudes toward suicide.
  • Increased Protective Factors – personal control, problem-solving, coping, school connectedness, and social support resources.
Reduction in Hard Drug Use
Reduction in Suicide Risk Behaviors
Increase in GPA
Reduction in Dropout Rates
Reduction in Depression


Our [RY] program… has been successful because teachers and staff see a change in student behavior and grades because of RY. Our leaders are skilled at working with youth, have built trust with school staff, and have implemented the program with fidelity. The students talk amongst themselves and want to sign up for the class. There are some teachers that contact the RY instructor and say ‘Hey, so and so should be in your class, why don’t you talk to him/her.’ We have the support of superintendents, principals, and guidance in the schools where [RY] is being implemented.

—RY Coordinator, Sparta, OH

Students worked outside of class time to help the fire victims in Bastrop, TX. My [RY] students gathered donations, separated and boxed clothes and made some small posters with encouraging words for the families that were affected. I heard one of my students comment, “This has really been fun; we are helping out families who lost everything, we are bonding ourselves and we didn’t even have to be out drinking to have a good time.”

—RY Facilitator, Huntington, TX
The Reconnecting Youth program has allowed us to initiate a school-wide effort that establishes a culture promoting healthy lifestyles throughout every aspect of school life. We find that RY encourages Navajo culture, traditions, and healings. RY serves to strengthen the belief that students should act with dignity towards themselves, others and their environment, and to respect their elders and themselves. I feel honored to be a part of such a great program!
—RY Facilitator, Teec Nos Pos, AZ

As a parent, what I noticed about my son’s [RY] participation is that it really helped him navigate high school … I really credit Reconnecting Youth, the curriculum and the staff, for this. To help my son set goals, to follow through, to really ask for help in a positive way from his instructors.

—Parent, Visalia, CA

We love RY and have implemented it successfully since January 2010. We run two classes each semester, and we hold graduation at the end of each semester. Some of the students speak–it’s very inspirational!

—RY Coordinator, West Springfield, MA

In our school, we have everyone that comes to the school to go through the Reconnecting Youth Program. It’s just an awesome program.

—Administrator, Tulare Co., CA

Students love the hands-on activities in the RY curriculum.

—RY Facilitator, Cherokee, NC

I have students ask me all the time when the next RY Class will be because they want to get in! Other teachers ask about having students participate in the next RY Class, as they have noted improvements in students who have previously attended RY.

—RY Facilitator, Swain Co., NC

I really appreciate how well organized and structured the whole [RY] program is. This will make it very user-friendly. I can’t wait to teach this!

—RY Training Participant, San Antonio, TX

In April, two local students came to share their life and RY experiences with our community and City Councilors as they declared April ‘Youth Alcohol Prevention Month.’ The kids spoke about their challenges and successes and were utterly captivating and attributed their changes to their involvement in RY. These two students are among dozens of others who have learned new skills and have turned their lives around because of their participation in RY. I will continue to cheerlead for this program and I felt it was necessary to share with you the amazing transformations that are occurring in our beautiful city.”

—RY Coordinator, Portland, ME

Year one exceeded our expectations and we are very pleased with the outcomes our [RY] students have achieved thus far … including a statistically significant improvement in Grade Point Average (GPA); significant advances in accumulating credit toward graduation; and a decline in their alcohol and marijuana use. The 2011-2012 school year is off to a great start and we look forward to sharing additional program evaluation data as it becomes available!

—RY Coordinator, Carbondale, CO
[Student’s] foster mom called me yesterday afternoon and told me that the judge announced that he had been ready to incarcerate [student] for 60 days but after reading my letter and learning about the special RY program, he had changed his mind and would give her one more chance. He said he wanted her to have the opportunity to experience the RY program. Isn’t that amazing?

—RY Facilitator, Overland Park, KS

Program FAQs

What is the difference between RY and CAST programs?2022-11-14T07:01:36-07:00

What is the difference between RY and CAST programs?

We get this question all the time: from agencies considering our programs; from sites using one and thinking of adding the other; and from grant writers needing to distinguish between the two programs.

So, what’s the difference? Here are the basics:

Reconnecting Youth (RY) is a semester-long CLASS, implemented in the school, as part of the regular schedule, and is offered for credit and a grade. RY was designed for students at risk for school dropout, and we have an algorithm/formula using referrals and student records to determine who “qualifies”. RY class size should not exceed 10-12 students. RY has a rich evidence-base as a Tier 3 or Indicated prevention program.

Coping and Support Training (CAST) is a 12-session GROUP, which can be implemented in a variety of locations: schools, mental health agencies, faith-based organizations, juvenile detention centers, private practice, etc. CAST groups should have 6-8 youth max. CAST can be offered as one of the following:

  • A Universal (Tier 1) prevention program offered* to all youth in a setting, grade or grouping

  • A Selective (Tier 2) prevention program to youth in at-risk groups (such as 8th graders transitioning to high school, Alaska Native/Native American/First Nation youth, LGBTQIA+ populations, or youth showing signs of risk for school dropout)

  • An Indicated (Tier 3) prevention program for high-risk individuals identified through screening (e.g., for suicide risk – this is what we did in our studies)

Perhaps more important is what RY and CAST share in common:

  • Youth should be invited, not assigned to the program.*
  • Diversity in a class/group in terms of risk factors, gender, age, experience, and strengths are beneficial to the success of all of the individuals in the program.
  • Life skills are taught, modeled, practiced and applied to real-life situations in and outside of the class/group context.
  • The emphasis is on developing a positive peer culture and adult support system, both of which bolster personal growth and other protective factors.
  • Both of the programs’ goals are to increase school achievement, drug use control and mood management (by decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors, such as personal control, problem-solving coping, and support resources).
  • Anyone can teach either RY or CAST as long as they are passionate about working with at-risk youth and are willing to deliver the program as designed. We’ve had teachers,administrators, school nurses, counselors, outside mental health agency staff, and well-loved security guards and probation officers teach both RY and CAST!
  • Training is HIGHLY recommended! These are both evidence-based programs with over 15 years of research to support their outcomes, when delivered with fidelity (i.e., as designed and tested). Training will ensure your implementation readiness.

  • Both programs change lives!! See our website for multiple national Evidence-Based Programs listings, our published results and numerous testimonials.

*NOTE an invitation and ability to opt out is essential!

What makes RY and CAST work (keys to success)?2022-10-13T10:16:20-07:00

What makes RY and CAST work (keys to success)?

We think the Reconnecting Youth and CAST Programs work for a lot of reasons! But if pushed to pick the top four reasons why these evidence-based programs work, we’d choose these:

  1. The Leader! If your RY or CAST Teacher/Facilitator is a caring, engaged and supportive adult who is passionate about youth and program fidelity, you should have a successful program.
  2. Positive Peer Culture! The youth invited to be in RY and CAST have a job and agree to it; they are all there to support one another, regardless of their differences or their diverse personal goals. Each youth brings strengths to share with the other group members.
  3. Skills Training! RY and CAST aren’t rap groups. And they’re not counseling groups. They are life skills training courses. Youth learn and practice skills in each session that they apply daily to their real-life situations. These life skills benefit the RY and CAST youth well into their adult lives.
  4. Developer-sponsored Training! Our trainings are engaging, interactive and practice-focused.
Will RY or CAST work in block schedules?2022-10-13T10:16:20-07:00

Will RY or CAST work in block schedules?

YES! Both programs are designed for 50-55 minute sessions. But RY and CAST work in different ways.

Let’s look at RY first

Since RY is a school class, it needs to follow the bell schedule, whatever that may be. Sometimes schools have as little as 45-minute periods, sometimes as much as 75-90. If an RY class is scheduled for 3rd period, which meets on a block schedule (e.g., Mon, Wed, Fri for 80 minutes), you can combine two RY lessons into each class session. For those of you who are familiar with the Anatomy of an RY Lesson, you would start at the beginning (Check-In) and teach all the way through one lesson; then start the next lesson at Big Ideas and teach through that lesson. It is wise to allow the students a “brain break” at some point, perhaps midway through.

What about CAST?

If you are implementing CAST in a school (which is only one of many appropriate settings), you simply keep the students together for the length of the CAST session. If you complete the session within 55 minutes, then you can send them back to class for the remainder of the period! Some schools prefer you to pull CAST students out of class for the latter part of a period, which allows them to be present for some of the lesson and get their assignments before leaving for their CAST group.

Can I offer CAST in a setting besides school?2022-10-13T10:16:20-07:00

Can I offer CAST in a setting besides school?

YES! Besides school settings, CAST can be implemented in a mental health agency, faith-based organization, juvenile detention center, private practice, inpatient setting or community agency.

What is an RY or CAST Coordinator?2022-11-14T07:02:30-07:00

What is an RY or CAST Coordinator?

The Coordinator assures implementation fidelity. A Coordinator supports the Teacher/Facilitator so that the program is delivered as designed, helping the group members achieve their best outcomes.

The RY or CAST Coordinator must have in-depth knowledge of the program; often this is someone who has facilitated the program themselves with success. Additionally, they must possess the skills, knowledge, and authority to support and sustain the necessary program infrastructure; and they must have the time, ability and willingness to provide oversight and supervision of the program.

Forming partnerships within the school and wider community, participating in the development of a Crisis Response Plan and overseeing youth selection, screening and assessment are all important tasks of the Coordinator.

Coordinator Training is highly recommended, and available through RY Inc. For a quick overview of any of our training offerings, review the Training section of our website.


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