Camp Fire Selected as National Partner to Strengthen Youth Relationships


MINNEAPOLIS, MN (November 16, 2017)—Search Institute has selected Camp Fire to be one of five national partners to co-create and test innovative ways to strengthen the relationships that young people in marginalized communities experience in their schools, programs, and families.

Camp Fire National Headquarters will work with Camp Fire Columbia in Portland, OR, and Search Institute to examine young people’s experiences of program leader relationships, focusing on ways these relationships help young people learn, grow, and thrive. Then the partners will work together to design and test strategies and tools to be more intentional and inclusive in building relationships with and among young people.

Titled the Relationships for Outcomes Initiative (ROI), this three-year effort grows out of extensive research on the power of relationships by Search Institute and others. This research shows that young people who experience “developmental relationships” in their lives experience better outcomes, including being more motivated in school, avoiding high-risk behaviors, developing social-emotional competencies, and other signs of thriving.

“In this highly competitive partnership opportunity, Camp Fire was honored to be chosen among the Search Institute’s five partners, specifically focusing on our afterschool program through Camp Fire Columbia,” said Cathy Tisdale, President and CEO of Camp Fire National Headquarters. “While there are many exciting pieces to this three-year initiative, the opportunity to create and test innovative ways to strengthen relationships with young people using the latest research is paramount. We will undoubtedly use the learnings from ROI to continually improve our program delivery across the country, with a focus on strengthening relationships with kids and teens so they can thrive.”


Each of the five partners has a broad network of programs and has chosen a single local program that will serve as a “design site” for this initiative. The other four partners are:

  • City Year (Boston, Massachusetts) and its affiliate in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Communities in Schools of San Antonio, Texas, and its program in South San High School.
  • Generation Citizen (Boston, Massachusetts) and its school-based program in Boston.
  • National Center for Families Learning (Louisville, Kentucky) and its partner organization, Toberman Neighborhood Center, San Pedro, California.

“These partners bring a wealth of experience in engaging and building relationships with marginalized young people,” said Kent Pekel, Search Institute’s president and CEO. “We are honored that they are joining us in this major effort, and we expect that what we learn and create together will have a major impact on young people across the country.”


The initiative builds on extensive Search Institute research on the elements of relationships that are critical for young people’s learning, development, and thriving. Search Institute has created a Framework of Developmental Relationships [1], which is relevant for parent-youth relationships, student-teacher relationships, mentoring relationships, peer relationships, and relationships between youth and out-of-school-time program leaders. The framework identifies five key elements of relationships that contribute to young people’s development:

1. Express care—Show me that I matter to you.

2. Challenge growth—Push me to keep getting better.

3. Provide support—Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.

4. Share power—Treat me with respect and give me a say.

5. Expand possibilities—Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.

Relationships with these qualities are vital for young people’s growth. Young people who report more strength in these elements of relationships are more likely to report a variety of social-emotional strengths (such as being motivated in school), be more likely to be resilient in the midst of challenges, and be less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors.

However, as many as 40 percent of young people say they have just one or no relationships that reflect these actions, according to a recent Search Institute study in a major US city. Furthermore, gaps in relationships are particular challenges for young people who have historically been marginalized in society, including those living in poverty and young people of color.


Camp Fire has been an innovative leadership in youth development since 1910, and serves youth, teens, and families through its 54 affiliates across the United States. Camp Fire programs are research-based on the pillar of Social Emotional Learning (SEL), and are delivered through Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs, environmental education and camp, and teen service and leadership development. Because youth shape the world, Camp Fire’s focus is giving youth and teens the opportunity to find their spark, lift their voice, and discover who they are. Camp Fire’s proven programs give kids the life skills they need now, so they can reach their full potential.


Minneapolis-based Search Institute conducts research across the United States and around the world to discover what young people need to succeed. The nonprofit also partners with youth-serving organizations to create spaces where young people thrive. For more information, visit


Core support for ROI is provided by the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust. The Trust supports the ROI action-learning partnerships focused on K-12 education, out-of-school-time programs, mentoring programs, and peer programs. The ROI action-learning partnership focused on family engagement is supported by the Altria Group.

[1] See

For more information, please contact:
Erin Risner, Director of Marketing & Communications, Camp Fire National Headquarters 

November 17, 2017

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