Mental Toughness

Purpose: School is challenging for many youth - even more so for those exposed to violence, trauma, and gang-related activities on a daily basis. An estimated half million youth drop out of school each year in the United States (Alosie-Young & Chavez, 2002). Alternative schools address the problem of drop-out for youth challenged in the traditional classroom setting. One such alternative school, Alliance for Community Empowerment, Inc. (ACE), provides a one-week course designed to help at-risk youth age 16-24 to orient the students to the "YouthBuild experience", develop community, influence positive behaviors and attitudes towards school. Hypothesis: Explore the programs offered within alternative schools for students either returning to school after being away for a long period of time or for those transitioning directly from a traditional school. Methods: Participants (N=31) completed paper surveys before and after the Mental Toughness program measuring their resilience, grit, academic confidence, sense of community, and trauma, using standardized measures and open-ended questions. Results: Quantitative results revealed no statistically significant difference between pretest and posttest outcomes in psychosocial factors such as resilience, grit, academic confidence or sense of community, although mean scores improved between pretest and posttest. Students did express gaining skills such as leadership and teamwork. Students also reported feeling a closer sense of community and as well as an increase in "sense of hope" and being overall satisfied with the program. Discussion: Future research is suggested to further explore the influence of the MT program on student's resilience, academic confidence, grit, and sense of community. Researchers suggest utilizing a comparison group or control group, whichever is most feasible. Longitudinal data can also be another option to gather information on the influence of the MT program over time by following one group of students.