Date of Award


Document Type

Access Controlled Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Amy Shellman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Anderson Young, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Norm Pure


The purpose of the study was to examine the benefits of a six-week challenge course program on urban youth’s academic and social achievement. Through an interactive, experiential learning environment, the Youth Leadership Program (YLP) aimed to increase participant’s selfconfidence, self-motivation, and sense of community through socially and physically challenging activities that yielded positive rewards (Rohnke, 1984; Schoel, 1988). Ultimately, the program aimed to help participants realize their ability to make positive academic and social choices in the classroom by learning how to overcome challenges and obstacles. A study group was randomly selected from the target population, ninth and tenth graders performing below a C average with multiple disciplinary infractions; this group was compared to a control group randomly selected from the same demographic who received no treatment. Overall grade point average (GPA), disciplinary infractions (DI) and the School Social Behavior Scale (SSBS-2) were used to determine changes in academic behavior, social competence and antisocial behavior. Focus group discussion sessions were also conducted with the study group to gain a deeper understanding of the participant experience. Data were analyzed using ANOVA and paired t-tests. Results indicated no statistically significant change but positive trends were recorded. Qualitative results showed the presence of benefits elicited from the program and four months following completion of the program. Participants in the study group did experience a positive academic and social change in the classroom after the extended challenge course program. However, this positive change was disrupted by confounding variables experienced by urban youth living in an unstable and unpredictable environment. A challenge course program as a part of core curriculum could potentially mitigate the effect of negative stressors and have positive long-term effects on overall academic and social performance.