November 16th, 2017

Tina Chong

City Year Selected as Partner in National Effort to Strengthen Relationships Across Young People's Lives

BOSTON (November 16, 2017) –Search Institute has selected City Year to be one of five national partners to co-create and test innovative ways to strengthen the relationships that young people in high-need communities experience in their schools, programs, and families.

City Year, a national education nonprofit operating in 28 cities across the country, will work with its site in Columbus, Ohio and Search Institute to examine young people’s experiences of mentoring relationships, focusing on ways these relationships help young people learn, grow, and thrive. Then the partners will work together to design and test strategies and tools to be more intentional and inclusive in building relationships with and among young people.

Titled the Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI), this three-year effort grows out of extensive research on the power of relationships by Search Institute and others. This research shows that young people who experience “developmental relationships” in their lives experience better outcomes, including being more motivated in school, avoiding high-risk behaviors, developing social-emotional competencies, and other signs of thriving.

“The relationships between City Year’s AmeriCorps members and the students they serve are foundational to all of the work we do with schools,” said City Year President Jim Balfanz. “The collaboration between City Year and Search Institute will result in better tools and strategies for our AmeriCorps members to use as they build developmental relationships with their students and provide academic and social-emotional supports that allow them to flourish.”

“We are excited to learn about how best to support our AmeriCorps members in forming developmental relationships and sharing those learnings and best practices with both the teachers and administrators with whom we partner every day and other mentoring organizations across the field,” said City Year Columbus Executive Director Tasha Booker.


Each of the five partners has a broad network of programs and has chosen a single local program that will serve as a “design site” for this initiative. The other partners are:

  • Camp Fire (Kansas City, Missouri) and its affiliate in Portland, Oregon.
  • Communities in Schools of San Antonio, Texas, and its program in South San High School.
  • Generation Citizen (Boston, Massachusetts) and its school-based program in Boston.
  • National Center for Families Learning (Louisville, Kentucky) and its partner organization, Toberman Neighborhood Center, San Pedro, California.

“These partners bring a wealth of experience in engaging and building relationships with marginalized young people,” said Kent Pekel, Search Institute’s president and CEO. “We are honored that they are joining us in this major effort, and we expect that what we learn and create together will have a major impact on young people across the country.”


The initiative builds on extensive Search Institute research on the elements of relationships that are critical for young people’s learning, development, and thriving. Search Institute has created a Framework of Developmental Relationships, which is relevant for parent-youth relationships, student-teacher relationships, mentoring relationships, peer relationships, and relationships between youth and out-of-school-time program leaders. The framework identifies five key elements of relationships that contribute to young people’s development:

  1. Express care—Show me that I matter to you.
  2. Challenge growth—Push me to keep getting better.
  3. Provide support—Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.
  4. Share power—Treat me with respect and give me a say.
  5. Expand possibilities—Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.

Relationships with these qualities are vital for young people’s growth. Young people who report more strength in these elements of relationships are more likely to report a variety of social-emotional strengths (such as being motivated in school), be more likely to be resilient in the midst of challenges, and be less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.

However, as many as 40 percent of young people say they have just one or no relationships that reflect these actions, according to a recent Search Institute study in a major US city. Furthermore, gaps in relationships are particular challenges for young people who have historically been marginalized in society, including those living in poverty and young people of color.


City Year helps students and schools succeed. Fueled by national service, City Year partners with public schools in 28 urban, high-need communities across the U.S. and through international affiliates in the U.K. and Johannesburg, South Africa. Diverse teams of City Year AmeriCorps members provide research-based student, classroom and school-wide supports to help students stay in school and on track to graduate from high school, ready for college and career success. A 2015 study shows that schools that partner with City Year were up to 2-3 times more likely to improve on math and English assessments. A proud member of the AmeriCorps national service network, City Year is supported by the Corporation for National and Community Service, local school districts, and private philanthropy from corporations, foundations and individuals. For more information, visit


Minneapolis-based Search Institute conducts research across the United States and around the world to discover what young people need to succeed. The nonprofit also partners with youth-serving organizations to create spaces where young people thrive. For more information, visit


Core support for ROI is provided by the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust. The Trust supports the ROI action-learning partnerships focused on K-12 education, out-of-school-time programs, mentoring programs, and peer programs. The ROI action-learning partnership focused on family engagement is supported by the Altria Group.