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UD institute helps at-risk high school students turn lives around

When Jadah Meadows enrolled at a high school for at-risk students, she didn’t expect to graduate and be working a year later, but after a lesson on resilience from UD’s Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation, she reformed her life.

"At my old school, I was unmotivated, I was childish and I was disrespectful. And I was irresponsible," Meadows said. "I just did everything I wanted to instead of what I needed to do. With resiliency, I learned that I can do those things I want to while I'm also doing the things I need to, and still be in a great position not to have any problems and not be confused on what my next move is. Well, now, every day I wake up and I'm going to go to work and I love it. It was a complete mindset shift."

Meadows arrived at Liberty High School with only seven credits of the 20 required to graduate. She was one of 30 students at the school to earn UD micro-credentials — focused skills sought by employers — in resilience, initiative and collaboration. Learning these skills helped her develop leadership qualities, which assisted her in earning the 13 credit hours she needed to graduate. She also discovered a passion for construction through one of the school's career pathway programs. After graduation, she was hired as the assistant in that same construction program helping other students find their resiliency.

"The changes in our students are unbelievable," said Jerry Farley, vice president of career technical education for Oakmont Education, which manages 16 charter schools across Ohio, including Liberty High School. "The (institute's) classes gave our youth the tools to better identify their pain and struggles so they could be met, dealt with and mitigated."

According to Farley, results from students pre- and post-self-assessments measuring well-being, which includes questions about anxiety, depression and sleep and eating disorders, showed a 31% improvement, "taking kids from at risk in these areas to no risk." The assessments measuring confidence, motivation and connectedness improved by about 21%.

Brian LaDuca, the Institute for Applied Creativity for Transformation's executive director, started the micro-credentialing curriculum with support from the provost's office and Associate Provost Phil Anloague in 2020 to help UD students address gaps in skills that employers were looking for, such as resilience, initiative and collaboration. But soon after, the institute expanded to work with Liberty students as a community partner and help Dayton youth.

"Liberty identified their graduates had high hire rates, but struggled after their first year because they lacked, as they would term, resilience," LaDuca said. "But these students are already resilient, we just taught them how to see their resilience as a skill and learn to improve it through practices of self-awareness, flexibility, learning from one's experience and moving beyond problems by focusing on a solution. Every one of the skills we teach through micro-credentialing is actually something we already have, but has been trained out of us, and we're helping to re-tap into those skills to educate the whole person."

Click here to learn more about UD micro-credentials.


News and Communications Staff