University Economic Development Association


UGA Fanning Institute Partnership Strengthens Schools Through Student Engagement

Award Category: Talent
Project Site: UGA Fanning Institute Partnership Strengthens Schools through Student Engagement
Submitted By: University of Georgia
Contact: Lauren Healy, Public Service Faculty, 706.542.7350


High-quality leadership programs provide substantial benefits to young people and their communities. More specifically, youth leaders demonstrate improved high school completion rates, fewer problem behaviors, enhanced civic engagement and increased self-esteem, which make them better able to solve community problems (Bloomberg et al., 2003; O’Brien & Kohlmeier, 2003). Yet, many youth leadership programs target only a small, select group of students and are offered by extra-curricular, youth-serving organizations. This structure results in minimal leadership opportunities for a larger percentage of youth, not typically tapped for formal leadership training.

In an effort to empower more young people, The J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development (Fanning) has partnered with schools to provide customized leadership programs to broader youth audiences. Fanning’s approach to leadership development is built on the knowledge that civic engagement is critical for positive youth outcomes. Combining leadership skill development and civic engagement, Fanning faculty have effectively integrated authentic youth voice with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning environment and strengthen schools.

One such partnership has led to increased student involvement and higher graduation rates at one Georgia high school. Since 2015, Fanning faculty have worked with school administration to provide leadership instruction, combined with strategic planning, to approximately 300 students. This process allowed a place for students to identify areas for school growth and develop a plan to move the school forward, which has led to five new “legacy” projects designed and facilitated by students. School climate has improved and graduation rates have increased by 7.9%.