StrongStart for Students

A 9th grade summer bridge program built around Decision Skills

DEF's StrongStart program helps students transition successfully from middle school to high school, empowering them with skills and tools for self-efficacy in decision-making.

Held in the summer just before the start of 9th grade, this active, 5-day camp-like experience focuses on building community connections, self-awareness, and leadership through Decision Skills training.

Program benefits:

  • Freshmen establish a strong and more confident foundation for high school.
  • Students learn self-efficacy and self-moderated behavior
  • Students are encouraged to engage in school academic and social activities
  • Students learn fundamental life skills to take beyond high school
  • Students learn processes to handle their new empowerment in new small, medium, and large responsibilities
  • Student chances for success are improved, demonstrated by a statistically significant rise in GPA and credits completed
  • Students add depth to college and career readiness with Decision Skills.
  • Rising seniors have an opportunity to act as leaders to their younger peers.​

Evidence of success:

Our StrongStart program evaluations show students have fun, feel better prepared for high school, and recommend the program to other freshmen.

Preliminary analysis of outcomes indicates StrongStart may increase:

  • GPA on the order of 0.3 (on a 4.0 scale)
  • Total freshman credits by 0.4 (0.5 is a semester class)

What schools have found:

  • Students like the program.
  • Teachers like the program.
  • Data indicates that program participants achieved increases in both GPA and completed course credits.
  • 9th grade year can set the path for a student's high school experience and the program helps create a successful path.​

How it works:

  • We train teachers in our content and how to deliver the program.
  • We provide all program curriculum and materials.
  • We provide best practices for recruiting students.
  • We provide ongoing support.