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Extension > Family > School success > Professionals > Research on the factors for school success: Introduction > U Connect

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Research on the factors for school success

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U Connect

Project Overview

Through collaboration between the University of Minnesota, Kentucky State University, and Tennessee State University, U Connect uses a three state model that addresses the critical concerns of middle school aged children in historically vulnerable and marginalized populations.

U Connect is a comprehensive program based on the Check & Connect framework developed at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration, with program enhancements from STEM education, nutrition education, and parent engagement. The foundation program, Check & Connect, is an evidence-based student engagement intervention that promotes young people’s self-regulation, intrinsic motivation, and persistence. This intervention supports positive youth development by promoting relationships with caring adults and peers, skill building within a safe environment, and cognitive engagement with school and learning.

Program Description

U Connect is designed for middle school aged youth and their parents/caregivers. Cohorts consist of small youth mentoring groups. Youth meet weekly with a mentor, as part of an existing afterschool program to engage in active learning opportunities. The learning opportunities are based on the curriculum offered by Check & Connect. Youth also receive STEM education and nutrition education weekly. Parents/caregivers of youth participants participate in regular parent engagement sessions, which focus on strengthening partnerships between families and schools, and strengthening parents/caregivers trust in their capacity to help their children be successful in school.


Primary outcomes from U Connect include:

Young people who participate will improve their pro-social behaviors at school, including attendance, personal behavior, academic performance, and engagement in school and within the afterschool program. Long term, this will provide youth with what they need to graduate high school, and graduate with sufficient skills for postsecondary education and/or employment. In addition, parents will cultivate a home environment conductive for young people’s academic success.

See a summary of U Connect within the three state partners:

The Team

This collaboration includes staff from the University of Minnesota, Kentucky State University, and Tennessee State University:

University of Minnesota: Jodi Dworkin, PI; Lynne Borden, Co-PI; Diana Yefanova, Site Coordinator; Marjorie Savage, Parent Engagement Coordinator; Ellie McCann, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency

Kentucky State University: Joanne Bankston, PI, College of Agriculture, Food Science and Sustainable Systems; Nancy Cálix, State Extension Specialist

Tennessee State University: Rita Fleming, PI, Department of Family and Consumer Sciences; Barbara Canada, Project Director

Related resources

Check & ConnectUniversity of Minnesota Institute on Community Integration — Find out more about this comprehensive intervention designed to enhance student engagement at school and with learning for marginalized, disengaged students in grades K-12, through relationship building, problem solving and capacity building, and persistence.

Fostering Achievement and Connection to Engage Students (FACES) — Get more information about the collaboration between schools, afterschool programs, young people, families, and communities to address educational disparities in access and achievement.

Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) — Get more information about the Partnering for school success CYFAR project that focuses on Latino families.

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