Help Students Graduate


Data shows that freshmen who stay on track have a higher graduation rate than their off-track peers. DEF's StrongStart program transitions students from middle school to high school, giving them skills and tools for empowerment and self-efficacy in decision-making.


The annual StrongStart 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)


We'd like to talk with you in a way that's most convenient for you. A simple phone call is a great way to start, and we can do something as extensive as a whole day visit to your site. At no cost to you, DEF can tailor an experience to fit your opportunity. Suggested options include:

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An interactive demonstration (30 min.) to a club at lunch or a classroom session (50 min.) provides an engaging overview.

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Workshops (2-3 hours) for a select group of students (struggling freshmen or student leadership) offer a broader introduction with memorable activities.

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What make a good decision

In our programs, students learn:

  • Quality decision making concepts

  • Critical thinking

  • Creative thinking, a divergent process

  • Problem-solving

  • Self-efficacy

  • Leadership skills

  • Life skills

  • Emotional intelligence

  • Resilience

A lunch or separate meetings with administrators, teachers, or counselors can introduce DEF's work in the context of each individual's interests and concerns. 

Maximizing value would include all of the options, with staff sharing what the students experience and discussion of how to take the learning forward. 

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DEF's programs are proven to work with diverse audiences. Examples include:

  • StrongStart Program

    • ​This program (25 hours) delivered Decision Skills to more than 580 students across 16 schools in 2019. Ninety percent of students stated they had fun, 83% felt better prepared for high school, and 85% would recommend the program to fellow students.


  • Steps to Success Program

    • This program focuses on 9th graders and helps get them on the road to graduation. This program includes practical steps towards improving 9th grade on-track outcomes like credits earned, GPA, attendance, discipline issues, and graduation rates.

  • Stanford Pre-Collegiate Studies

    • DEF partners with Stanford to offer a 2.5 hour introductory experience to high school students. Last summer, DEF led workshops for 562 students from 35 different countries. Rating 4.5 out of 5, the program is among the best, 6 years running.

  • At-Risk Students

    • Students struggling in math at an urban high school attended a 3 hour workshop -- 90% responded they would like to learn more decision skills. DEF has worked successfully with alternative high schools and in diverse settings. 

DEF is a non-profit with the mission to improve the lives of young people by teaching them effective Decision Skills.