U Connect uses a three state model that addresses the critical concerns of middle school aged children in historically vulnerable and marginalized populations. It is a collaboration between three institutions:
University of Minnesota
Kentucky State University
Tennessee State University
U Connect is a comprehensive program based on the Check & Connect framework developed at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration with program enhancements from STEM education, nutrition education, and parent engagement. The foundation program, Check & Connect, is an evidence-based student engagement intervention. It promotes young people’s self-regulation, intrinsic motivation, and persistence. This intervention supports positive youth development by:
Promoting relationships with caring adults and peers
Skill building within a safe environment
Cognitive engagement with school and learning.
U Connect is designed for middle school aged youth and their parents/caregivers. Cohorts consist of small youth mentoring groups. Youth meet weekly with a mentor, as part of an existing afterschool program to engage in active learning opportunities. The learning opportunities are based on the curriculum offered by Check & Connect. Youth also receive STEM education and nutrition education weekly. Parents/caregivers of youth participants participate in regular parent engagement sessions. The sessions focus on two areas:
Strengthening partnerships between families and schools
Strengthening parents/caregivers trust in their capacity to help their children be successful in school.
Primary outcomes from U Connect include:
Promotion of physical and psychological well-being. Creation of opportunities for youth, families, and community center staff to develop supportive relationships.
Demonstration and modeling of positive social norms.
Creation of a safe place of inclusion that supports empowerment and skill building.
Young people who participate will improve their pro-social behaviors at school. This includes:
Engagement in school and within the after school program.
Long term, this will provide youth with what they need to graduate high school, and graduate with sufficient skills for postsecondary education and/or employment. Also, parents will cultivate a home environment conductive for young people’s academic success.
See a summary of U Connect within the three state partners:
- Minnesota U Connect Report – Summary of Years 1 and 2 (PDF)
- Kentucky U Connect Report – Summary of Years 1 and 2 (PDF)
- Tennessee U Connect Report – Summary of Years 1 and 2 (PDF)
- Minnesota U Connect Report - Summary of Year 3 (PDF)
- Kentucky U Connect Report - Summary of Year 3 (PDF)
- Tennessee U Connect Report - Summary of Year 3 (PDF)
This collaboration includes staff from the University of Minnesota, Kentucky State University, and Tennessee State University:
University of Minnesota: Jodi Dworkin, PI; Lynne Borden, Co-PI; Diana Yefanova, Site Coordinator; Marjorie Savage, Parent Engagement Coordinator; Ellie McCann, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency
Kentucky State University: Joanne Bankston, PI, College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems; Nancy Cálix, State Extension Specialist
Tennessee State University: Rita Fleming, PI, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences; Barbara Canada, Project Director