Date of Award

Spring 5-23-2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Organizational Leadership

First Advisor

Krysti DeZonia

Second Advisor

Len Hightower

Third Advisor

Lisbeth Johnson


This study examined the impact of social-emotional literacy instruction for at-risk adolescents ages 13 to 18 at the high school level. Of particular interest is the impact of social-emotional literacy instruction on at-risk youth Grades 9-12 in secondary high schools’ 8-week-long social-emotional literacy class through Project AWARE, particularly in the areas of suspension, expulsion, attendance, connectivity, attitude toward school, resiliency, and relational aggression rates; the data were analyzed using archival data and teacher interview. Project AWARE, the social-emotional literacy intervention examined in this study, educates and provides mentorship for at-risk students, while also providing a group educational component on relationships between students to help increase connection, decrease depression, and relational aggression for students. Project AWARE offers a working partnership between adults and students, and involves mentoring other students in the group. Two groups were considered in this study: 37 students in Project AWARE and 10 adults involved with or who had intimate knowledge of Project AWARE. All faculty described experiences with the program, and these experiences were analyzed using the NVIVO program for qualitative research. Student experiences were also noted in the archival data and analyzed for quantitative research. Three broad themes were identified: (a) factors that impact at-risk youth in an effort to understand how adverse childhood experiences serve to obstruct successful student outcomes and how the resilience and a culture of developmental assets can contribute to desirable outcomes for at risk students; (b) primary, secondary, and tertiary vi level support programs for at-risk youth that include character education, parent education, teacher training, and behavioral/counseling interventions in public schools as alternatives to traditional discipline and how these programs support or strengthen emotional literacy in students; and (c) social-emotional literacy training’s impact on student discipline, connection, and resilience. The findings suggest that programs that provide mentoring and include group educational components can have a positive impact on student awareness and attitude.