Since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, we have continually searched for answers to challenging questions to promote care and prevent harm in schools and communities across America.

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Why did a shooter take the lives of 32 Hokies on April 16th?

Numerous factors led to the tragic VT shooting. In a review of school shootings, it’s well documented that numerous factors, from relational conflict and bullying to mental illness, contribute to violence in schools.

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Does promoting goodness prevent a person from turning down a darker and violent path?

We still don’t know, but we believe it can! We gave out 2,000+ “actively caring” wristbands when we spotted kindness from students and staff on campus.

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Does promoting care prevent aggression and bullying among elementary students?

We developed a simple kindness-promotion program where students look for caring from their peers and then are rewarded by teachers for caring, which reduced aggression by 40% (McCarty, Teie, McCutchen, & Geller, 2016)

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Does a strengths-focused program develop character for middle school students?

We adapted the kindness-promotion program for middle schools and focused on building character strengths.

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Can college students lead compassionate change in schools?

We trained 40+ college students in the science of peace promotion and violence prevention, a student-centric pedagogy, and developmental science. These college students taught 2,000+ students in four local middle schools.

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How can students lead recovery after a school shooting?

At Chardon High School, we trained 80+ students to provide comfort and support to their peers and staff during a healing process.

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How can we empower youth-led change before a school shooting occurs?

We developed a youth-led approach for students to develop their own school safety initiatives along with kindness and mental wellness campaigns to improve the school culture. 

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Can we empower students at every school and college across the U.S.?

We formed a non-profit, the COR Foundation, to develop more research-based youth programs and adult training along with a strategy to scale programs across schools.

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How can adults support student-led change in schools?

We started to conduct research on school climate, consult with school administrators and train after-school club advisors.

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How can we support School Resource Officers with more knowledge and skills to build trust, relationships and collaboratively create change with students?

We co-developed Preventing Problems by Promoting Positive Practices with Xero Associates and trained all of the Baltimore City School police.

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How can we support a team of youth leaders to solve any school or community problem?

We developed COR 4 -- a four-phase process of youth development programming to enhance actions, consciousness, solutions and analytics to create school change.

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How can we create change together?

We partnered with select non-profit organizations and colleges to begin the process of scaling our programs to schools.

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How can we create a better culture?

Promote Care & Prevent Harm. It’s our new name, our vision and our strategy for culture change.

Our areas of focus are specific, but our goals are challenging. We know that in order to create a better culture we must focus on behaviors, mental health, and relationships. The crisis we face is the presence of too much harm and not enough care. In order to create safer communities and schools, we must address the duality of all challenges.

Mental Health

We can promote peace and prevent aggression, bullying and violent behaviors.

We can promote mental wellness and prevent mental health concerns and illness.

We can promote connection and prevent relational conflict among students at school.


Promote Helping Behaviors

Programming should target behavior that harms others (e.g., bullying) with a promotion-focused strategy of recognizing and rewarding positive (prosocial) behavior that benefits others (Colvin et al., 1999) in order to reduce risk factors (e.g., bullying) and promote strengths. McCarty (2016) assessed whether students perceive aggressing and helping actions as opposite types of interpersonal behavior; these data support the incompatibility principle (e.g., Colvin et al., 1999).

As a result, new programs should aim to develop social-emotional skills and reward helping behavior in order to reduce aggressive behavior and bullying.

Prevent Aggression and Bullying

Bullying-prevention programs produce only small changes in combating bullying, especially over the long-term (Swearer et al., 2010; Ttofi & Farrington, 2011). Current intervention programs to reduce bullying, many of which use top-down control and punitive consequences, are not meeting the needs of students in schools (Swearer et al., 2010). Even the “blue ribbon” Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP) program has demonstrated mixed results when implemented in American schools (Bauer et al., 2007). Anti-bullying interventions are effective (Limber, Olweus, Wang, Masiello, & Breivik, 2018), but less effective than aggression-prevention programs (Hahn et al., 2007), likely due to the added complexity of addressing power imbalances within bullying programs.

Learn more about how we promote caring behaviors and prevent harmful behaviors:

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Promote Mental Health Wellbeing

Hope, gratitude, and social intelligence are a few of the 24 character strengths essential to develop in youth (see VIA).  The absence of mental illness is NOT the presence of psychological well-being. Building strengths and character are essential. 

Dr. Furlong and team found students who self-report more strengths have:

  • higher life satisfaction

  • higher perceptions of school safety along

  • higher academic performance

  • lower rates of drug use

  • lower rates of bullying others

Thus, youth programs should focus on the promotion of strengths.

Prevent Mental Health Concerns & Illness

Interventions to support students with mental illness often focus on large-scale strategies, such as school-based partnerships with community organizations, to provide treatment in schools (Richardson & Morrissette, 2012).  Schools and communities need more support to provide mental health services in schools. In fact, the public education system is the largest provider of mental health services for youth.  However, only some students are receiving the treatment they need.

Preventing the onset of mental illness and treating mental illness is only one side of the coin. We must treat all individuals who are suffering with depression, anxiety, or delusions. But, we can be more proactive by focusing on the positive side of mental health – promoting protective factors, assets and mental health .  

Learn more about how we promote mental health wellbeing and prevent mental health concerns:


Promote Connection

Connected (Fowler and Christakis) taught us about the power of human relationships and social networks. Our happiness is affected by our friend's friend's friend. Yes! Three degrees of separation. In a famous psychology article, The Need to Belong (Baumeister and Leary, 1995) discuss belongingness has a fundamental human need, which was supported by the latest social neuroscience findings in the book Social (Lieberman, 2013).

Thus, youth programs should focus on the promotion of connection among peers.   

Prevent Social Isolation

In How Social Isolation Is Killing Us, Khullar discuss how chronic loneliness and social isolation lead to psychological problems. In fact, Matter asks the question: Is loneliness a health epidemic? 

We believe most teachers and educators would agree. Students are spending more and more time on social media, comparing themselves to others, and failing to connect in meaningful ways. 

Learn more about how we promote connection and prevent social isolation: