Project TRUST Newsletter

project trustDecember 2015

Also available in SpanishSomali, and Hmong 

What does youth resiliency mean for high school students across the Twin Cities?  In 2010 a group of community members, educators, and researchers came together to answer that question from the perspectives of Somali, Latino, and Hmong youth.  They talked with students who identified ways that teachers show students that they know them and care for them.  Students said:

“We have Hmong New Years at my school and some of the teachers who are not Hmong, they come and still support and they just come support and watch and cheer for the dancing.” (Hmong Youth)

“…he was on my case about me not doing my work but he took the time to actually explain to me what I was doing and show me what I had to do and I just thought that it was more effective to help me instead of just giving me a worksheet.” (Latino youth)

“They show you respect. If you need any help, they will sit down with you and have a talk with you and say you’re doing this and now I would like you to behave in school because school is going to get you somewhere.” (Somali youth)

Project TRUST (Training for Resiliency in Urban Students and Teachers) came out of those student perspectives.

What is Project TRUST?
Why is connection to teachers and school important for health as well as academic success?
What did we do?
What have we learned?
What do teachers say about Project TRUST? 
What is next for Project TRUST?

What is Project TRUST?

  • A research partnership where community members from SoLaHmo Partnership for Health and Wellness, educators from SPPS, and academics from the University of Minnesota Medical School and College of Education and Human Development have worked together to develop and evaluate a 9 session teacher professional development program.
  • Project TRUST is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
  • The goal is to build resiliency for 9th grade Somali, Latino, Hmong students by strengthening students’ connections to teachers and their school.  We anticipated that all students would benefit when their teachers participated in Project TRUST.

resiliency wheelWhy is Connection to Teachers and School Important for Health as well as Academic Success?

  • Prior research tells us that students with strong connections to teachers and their school get better grades, but they also have more healthy behaviors and fewer health-risk behaviors like tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.
  • Graduating from high school is one of the most important social determinants of health.

What Did We Do?

  • Three years of research with parents, youth, and educators led us to 9 themes that became the sessions in the teacher professional development program.
  • Como teachers worked with Project TRUST facilitators to practice and deepen their skills in creating meaningful relationships with youth.
  • In Project TRUST, teachers deepened their understanding of their key role in the healthy development of their students, and learned from each other by sharing strategies that work to build teachers-student relationships.

What Have We Learned?

  • 214 9th grade Como students agreed, with their parents’ consent, to fill out surveys about their classroom environment.
  • Overall, students reported high levels of connectedness to their teachers and engagement in the classroom at the beginning of the year.
  • Students whose teachers participated in Project TRUST maintained that emotional engagement over the course of the year.
  • Students whose teachers participated in Project TRUST maintained goals and aspirations for the future over the course of the year.
  • Emotional engagement, goals and aspirations for the future went down for students whose teachers did not participate in TRUST.

What Do Teachers Say About Project TRUST? 

  • “The assignment to talk with the students you don’t normally talk to, that student comes to talk with me all the time now.”
  • “I had a very specific issue with one student that this (Project TRUST) helped with…I realized I needed to be more patient. I was able to show him how to get better and I backed off…he's really improved.”
  • “Build it into the infrastructure of the school so that there is support. We can only do a little here and a little there and never see a change."

What is Next for Project TRUST?

  • We have applied for another National Institutes of Health grant and are hoping to replicate Project TRUST across the Twin Cities. 

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