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Education & Youth Development We are committed to supporting education and youth development outcomes at every stage of life, from early childhood through college and career readiness and lifelong learning.

Education & Youth Development

Early Care and Education Program Quality

Children’s early years form the foundation for their academic and social success. Those who start kindergarten on track tend to stay on track, and those who start behind often find it difficult to catch up without additional support. Kindergarten readiness is the number one indicator of whether a child will read at grade level in third grade. Reading at grade level, in turn, is the number one indicator of whether a child will graduate later from high school.

To ensure that all children start school ready to succeed, communities must create high-quality early childhood education systems that promote and support the holistic development of the child. Simultaneously, pre-kindergarten programs need to use evidence-based, child-centered, developmentally and culturally appropriate curricula, and practices when working with children. Root Cause works with early childhood education systems and other kindergarten-readiness programs to implement continuous quality improvement in their operations, allowing them to provide higher quality early care and education programs.

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Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a framework that prepares youth for the challenges of adolescence and adulthood with a focus on youth strengths and voice, positive engagement, and inclusivity. The framework recognizes that empowered young people need support, guidance, and opportunities to develop self-assurance in four key areas: competence (being able to do something well), usefulness (having something to contribute), belonging (being a part of a community and having relationships with caring adults), and power (having control over one’s future). Root Cause supports positive youth development in a variety of capacities to ensure that children have access to the health and education resources and opportunities they need.

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Family and Community Engagement

Family and community engagement describes the process in which service providers, schools, community organizations, government agencies, families, and individuals share a responsibility to engage each other in meaningful ways to shape the programs, services and systems that reflect the community’s needs and can best help it thrive. This engagement can take many forms, including soliciting ideas and feedback from families, building capacity to advocate on one’s own behalf, offering opportunities to participate in program governance and decision-making, and engaging community members in gathering and interpreting data about their needs and ways to address them

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Out-of-School Time (OST) Learning

Out-of-school time (OST) learning, or learning that takes place outside of the classroom, includes educational and learning experiences in settings outside of school hours where young people can gain knowledge, skills, and behaviors that are fundamental to their future success. Such settings may include extracurricular activities, academic programs, sports, or other groups and clubs. Young people who participate in these programs often show higher levels of self-esteem, healthy social interaction behavior, and show more competency in making important life choices. However, young people from low-income households and underserved populations often do not have as much access to high-quality OST programs. This leaves them without the benefits that such experiences can have on a child’s overall development. Root Cause’s work supports partners in designing and providing access to quality OST programming to encourage learning, growth, and development, both in and out of the classroom.

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School and Community Partnerships

Root Cause builds place-based school and community partnerships. We facilitate collaboration between partners to identify common goals and outcomes, allowing for an effective coordinated effort that strengthens and supports the educational landscape for students. The seamless integration of school and community-based services ensures that students are able to progress consistently along the path from high school graduation to post-secondary education and/or professional training. In this way, these partnerships are able to coordinate services and resources that both complement and go beyond what school districts can do on their own, ultimately creating more and better opportunities to help students succeed.

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STEM Access and Success

STEM education is the approach to teaching the core subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math, in a manner that integrates all four to reflect their interrelationship in our world and in the rapidly changing careers students will be entering in an evolving global economy. STEM ecosystems are coordinated networks that can include schools, out of school time programs, leading STEM institutions (i.e. higher education, industry leaders, science centers, etc.), the private sector, other community-based organizations, as well as young people and their families.

STEM ecosystems maximize students’ ability to grasp and apply concepts beyond the classroom and build a sense of agency around pursuing a career in STEM. However, many underserved communities are not able to provide high-quality STEM education and training that helps students gain knowledge and problem-solving skills. This is due to lack of funding, staff, or other resources, which limits students’ access to STEM education and opportunities. Root Cause works to strengthen and support educational landscapes by helping increase access to STEM resources and opportunities for students most underrepresented in STEM college or career pathways.

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College Access and Success

College access and success works to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the ability to enter college and successfully obtain a degree. Students in underserved communities have a higher potential for being lost along the educational pipeline due to certain factors including poverty, being a first generation college student, not having a parent fluent in English, or being a parent themselves.

Three major factors lead to the low college enrollment and graduation rates of at-risk students include low academic preparedness, lack of college knowledge, rising cost of college, shrinking available aid, and lack of awareness. Limited resources in low-income urban and rural areas, and an insufficient number of counselors contributes to low-income and minority students not being well informed about the college admission process and requirements. As a result, these students are less likely than others to explore an array of college options, to take college admission tests, or to complete admission procedures — even if they are well qualified for college. By working with students and their families, Root Cause equips college access programs to address gaps in academic preparedness, college aspiration and knowledge, and financial barriers to higher education.

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