Texas Tech University

Center for Adolescent Resiliency Programs Encourage Student Development

Amanda Castro-Crist and Heidi Toth

December 19, 2016


The center’s programs focus on helping students within Lubbock schools grow academically, physically and socially.

Teen huddle

The Center for Adolescent Resiliency has gone by many different names and housed many different programs since it was first created at Texas Tech University in the 1990s. But its core purpose has remained the same: to provide adolescents with a caring and supportive environment to help them develop healthy academic, physical and social habits. 

In collaboration with Lubbock schools, nonprofit agencies and other partners, the center houses two main programs: Covenant BodyMind Initiative (CBMI) and United Future Leaders (UFL). These programs serve Lubbock area students from elementary to high school age and offer a wide range of activities, lessons, discussions and participation opportunities to help students build strong relationships, interact positively with peers and community members, prepare for the future and build strong, lifelong characteristics.

Kayla Sherman
Kayla Sherman

Kayla Sherman, assistant director of the UFL program, said the program's curriculum focuses on the promotion of three main values: civility, ethics and leadership.

“Along with teaching kids these qualities, we really want to empower them to ‘take it out to the world,' which is our motto,” Sherman said. “The way we do that is through service, mentoring and relationship-building, but most importantly by encouraging them to share the things they're learning with their friends, family and the community.”

Created by Texas Tech Human Development & Family Studies (HDFS) faculty, the center originally was intended to work proactively with area youth via programming focused on protecting adolescents from developing addictive behaviors or succumbing to risky environments. Since its development, it has evolved to feature the three youth outreach programs focusing on a wider range of adolescent development as well as extending beyond the range of the HDFS program.


The Covenant BodyMind Initiative program was created in collaboration with Covenant Health to promote self-care, develop resilience and support overall wellness in adolescents. The program's curriculum aims to provide a comprehensive approach to wellness by providing experiential school activities, family resources and community involvement to participants.

The program educates students of all ages about physical health, nutrition and exercise as well as social and emotional wellness. The 16-week program is used to enhance existing classroom programs.  In the Lubbock area, the Talkington School for Young Women Leaders serves as the primary research site for CBMI, which has been part of the Talkington School's core curriculum for years and has seen the school's first graduates enroll at Texas Tech and continue the relationship with CBMI through classes, support groups and volunteer opportunities.

Linn Walker
Linn Walker

The program has a variety of curriculum options for different age groups, including 10-minute wellness spotlights for fifth- and sixth-graders, lesson plans for middle schoolers that work into the existing coursework and a variety of elective, semester-long courses for eighth-graders through seniors in high school.

CBMI also includes the Comprehensive Wellness Advocacy Project for sixth-graders through seniors, with lessons focused on youth who are at work and the challenges specific to them.

“CBMI believes resilience, wellness and self-care promote healthy minds and bodies, which allow the individual to make better life choices,” CBMI director Linn Walker said. “When we teach students, we reach families; when we reach families, we impact communities. We hope for healthier communities.”


The center's most well-known program, United Future Leaders, is an after-school leadership development program celebrating its 10th anniversary. Beginning as a partnership between Texas Tech and United Supermarkets, the program was created to develop young leaders in the Lubbock community, specifically targeting fifth-graders transitioning into middle school.

Students in UFL attend after-school sessions on their respective campuses once a week to participate in interactive, hands-on leadership training revolving around various theme-based lessons. Gloria Gonzales, director of the program, said though civility, ethics and leadership are the program's primary values, the UFL framework consists of numerous other sub-themes taught to students each week.

Gloria Gonzales
Gloria Gonzales

“We focus on themes like identity, emotional security, physical safety, belonging, competence and service in order to help kids build their leadership and confidence skills as they transition into middle school and navigate those muddy waters,” Gonzales said.

Beginning with only two campuses, the UFL program now visits 13 campuses in the Lubbock area each week, reaching more than 240 participants from fifth grade to high school in the 2015-16 school year. Students engage in discussions, team-building activities, problem solving and exercises focused on applying knowledge and skills to students' daily lives as young leaders.

“After our fifth-graders finish half of their sixth-grade year, we hold a celebration banquet for them and all of their families, where they get framed certificates and recognition – it's kind of like a graduation for them,” Sherman said. “At that point they're invited to join our UFL Ambassador program, which they can be a part of all the way through high school if they choose.”

The UFL Ambassador program, created to make it easier for youth and families to maintain involvement after sixth grade, provides support for students' individual endeavors as well as opportunities for leadership development, mentoring and service. Though no longer a weekly after-school program, UFL Ambassador promotes leadership and service development by hosting six to eight service events each year for students, their families and friends to attend.

In addition to the service events, UFL Ambassadors have the opportunity to attend an annual leadership conference, a Service Summit where they receive service-focused training, meetings with the Texas Tech Career Center, a Q&A panel with former UFL students now in college and workshops focusing on things like resumé building and college prep.

Sara Dodd
Sara Dodd

“A lot of the ambassador activities are more event-based, but what we're finding is as our program is growing, we're looking to offer things that the kids need,” Gonzales said. “So if we're going to have juniors and seniors be a part of our program then we need to provide them with some pre-college skills. Most of all we just want to ask ourselves, what's important to them?”

With more than 70 Texas Tech student volunteers participating in delivering curriculum to local students each week, participants of the UFL program have the opportunity to build lasting relationships with positive role models who encourage them to pursue any path they desire.

“This program is definitely an illustration of Texas Tech's slogan,” said Sara Dodd, director of the center. “Anything is possible, and that's what we want to show these kids, that they have the ability to do anything.”

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