Measuring the Impact of Youth Leadership Development

Research & Engagement, 2015


The purpose of this collaborative research study is to develop a psychometrically sound measure of youth leadership (including its developmental aspect) and examine its relationship to community outcomes, such as retention, civic engagement, entrepreneurial activity and community attachment.

Youth leadership development, to date, has not been examined for its predictive value in influencing community outcomes. This project requires the transdisciplinary synergy of scholars and practitioners in youth leadership, community development, civic engagement and organizational behavior and will engage youth participants in place-based civic leadership development (Rural Civic Action Program—RCAP) and strengths-based leadership mentoring (Nebraska Human Resources Institute—NHRI).

This program expands the RCAP project – a 2014-2015 RFI Teaching & Engagement project that has been sustained beyond the two-year project and will also be expanded to include UNK undergraduate students, which would allow for middle and high schools within 60 miles of Kearney to be included in the program. This expands the reach of the program to include significantly more communities across the state of Nebraska.


The successful replication of the Rural Community Action Project (RCAP) Program from UNL to the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus is evidence the program can be replicated at other institutions. This achieved the engagement goal for the project of creating a collegiate program template for youth civic engagement that can be replicated at other institutions across Nebraska, the Great Plains, and even the world. A manual to facilitate the replication of the RCAP program was created and is available for others to use.

During this project, 105 Undergraduate Fellows at UNL and UNK have engaged with over 450 middle and high school students to complete 36 youth civic engagement projects at multiple school locations. Evidence suggests that the middle and high school students who participated in the RCAP program are more confident in their capacity to engage in community work in the future.

On the research side, data from 836 youth have been collected and are currently being analyzed to help create a psychometrically sound measure of positive youth leadership identity. Through this RFI award, partnerships have formed between researchers and leadership development programmers to improve the capacity to assess youth leadership development.


Project Team



  • Civic Nebraska (formerly Nebraskans for Civic Reform)
  • Heartland Center for Leadership Development
  • Amherst High School
  • Ashland-Greenwood High School
  • Auburn Public School
  • Crete High School
  • East Butler High School
  • Elm Creek High School
  • Johnson-Brock Middle School
  • Johnson County Central High School
  • Kearney High School
  • Pleasanton High School
  • Syracuse-Dunbar-Avoca High School
  • Weeping Water High School
  • Weeping Water Middle School
  • Wilcox-Hildreth High School
  • Wood River Middle School
  • Cardinal Union at Crete High School
  • United Church of Christ in Crete
  • Sack Lumber, Brainard
  • First National Bank, Weeping Water
  • Meeske’s Hardware & Houseware, Weeping Water
  • Tribal Kitchen, Weeping Water
  • Weeping Water city office and mayor








Media Coverage


Contact: L.J. McElravy,