Growth Mindset and Resiliency: 2 Keys to Unleashing the Potential of Under-Resourced Youth



Focused Area

Youth-At-Risk in Rural Settings

Relevance to Focused Area

Having grown up in the south, I know firsthand the limitations that a rural culture and small town mindset can place on a child. This session will deal directly with strategies and proven steps to help increase resiliency, reframe a child's view of himself and abilities and empower them to believe in a different future story than the one often placed on him by his environment and surroundings. Females, dreamers, those faced with taking over the family business, kids who have no example of post high school education or careers outside of the community...kids from all of these categories and more often feel stuck in the expectations of what they should do or the belief of what others feel should be their path in life and role in society. Breaking out of those expectations and embracing their own view of their life path takes a growth mindset, resiliency, grit and strong internal compass. This session will address how to help infuse those things in the life of kids from rural communities...many who want desperately to create their own future story.

Primary Strand

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Relevance to Primary Strand

Academic achievement is tied directly to the internal dialogue and labels a student has embraced. In order to increase motivation and engagement, adults must understand the messages a child tells himself regarding his ability, worthiness, toughness in the face of adversity, intelligence etc. Helping to reframe a fixed mindset into a growth mindset sets a child up for the ability to reframe struggles, setbacks and adversity as part of the road to success instead of a reflection on his ability or intelligence. Adults in schools are leaders regardless of titles and must embrace their role in guiding students to see themselves in a new light as they seek to shape their view of the future into one full of possibilities instead of limitations.

Brief Program Description

The mindset of at-risk students plays a huge role in their motivation and achievement. Carolyn Dweck's powerful research on Mindsets is a key to helping educators help students redefine how they view success and how to reach it. Understanding how to help students reframe their thinking and embrace a growth mindset will increase their resiliency, self-confidence and belief in their future.


At-risk youth, by the age of 3, have heard a staggering amount of negative comments compared to positive ones. In addition, because of their chaotic, unstable environments, they often embrace 'Learned helplessness' at early ages. Their belief that they have no ability to control their destiny, coupled with an inaccurate belief that intelligence is fixed and that intelligence=success too often leads to apathy, discouragement, lack of engagement, effort and achievement. Because emotions are such a driving force in the learning process, under-resourced youth often need help with negative tapes running in their heads as well as reframing their view of learning, effort and success. In my years of working with at-risk youth, both teaching and coaching, the challenge often had everything to do with their negative mental messages and low self-esteem and nothing to do with their ability/intelligence. Carolyn Dweck's research and book, MINDSET: The New Psychology of Success is a powerful resource and roadmap for educators to help youth at all levels understand the brain, the power of sustained effort and how their thoughts and emotions play such a huge role in academic success. As schools take a more holistic approach to educating those in Title 1 schools, there is drastic improvement across the board bc until the emotional needs are addressed, academics will take a back seat. This presentation provides research, data, info to help educators understand the importance of addressing student's emotional needs, helping kids understand the brain/learning and empowering them on their academic journey. As kids move toward the Growth Mindset, the sense of wonder and excitement at their own ability to strengthen their mental muscle will increase. In addition, their improved resilience in the face of struggles and belief in their ability to control their academic progress will bolster their ability to envision a different future for themselves.


1) MINDSET Carolyn Dweck: Stanford University professor and author of ‘MINDSETS’ Dweck was greatly impacted as a 6th grader when she and her classmates were seated not alphabetically, but in IQ order. That event caused Carolyn to move her focus from the joy of learning to looking smart at all cost because she didn't want to lose her position. This shift meant that she began to avoid risks, sought out the easier academic challenges and was less likely to ask for help or admit to struggling with a concept. This pivotal time in her life was the foundation of her research at Stanford as she sought to explain why kids responded differently in the face of academic struggles and set backs. Why some kids wanted harder challenges and others consistently avoided them and why some kids thrived through setbacks and others got overly frustrated and defeated. She defined two distinct mindsets (Fixed and Growth) that govern choices and behaviors as students navigate academic and life challenges. Since 1985, in my own work with at-risk youth, in both urban and rural settings, it became apparent that most believed that if you had to study, it meant that you weren’t smart. The overwhelming assumption was that students who got A’s And B’s were born smart and didn’t have to work hard or study for those grades. The fixed mindset believes that Intelligence = Success and you either have it or you don’t and there isn’t anything you can do to change it. Neuroscience has proven that not only is intelligence NOT fixed, but that when learning new concepts one is able to create new neural pathways and strengthen them through sustained effort and focus. One with a Growth Mindset understands that Sustained Effort + Time = Success. A Growth Mindset embraces struggles and understands that setbacks are part of mastery. It in no way reflects on them personally nor is it an indication of their over all IQ. Understanding the two mindsets is critical for anyone working with Title 1 population because many students from poverty have Fixed mindsets and hold inaccurate views and beliefs about intelligence, struggles and their own abilities. When adults are able to recognize the characteristics of the two mindsets and identify kids who approach the world and academics through the lens of a Fixed mindset, they then are able to begin to help reframe and recalibrate a child's approach to learning and life. Moving a child from a Fixed to a Growth mindset will transform their belief system, decision making, feelings about both themselves and academics. It will also allow them to seek out harder challenges and will feel empowered to embrace sustained effort and set backs as critical pieces of mastery.

*Ms Alcala-8th grade math teacher-'MY FAVORITE NO'

2) RESILIENCY Christian Moore: Founder of 'Why Try' and author of ‘The Resilience Breakthrough’

Resiliency is a key component of success in both school and life.

Christian’s research on resiliency aligns directly with Dweck’s work and supports the need for a deeper understanding of how best to increase resiliency in at-risk youth. Moore faced huge challenges that would have derailed many kids from pursuing a high school diploma or college degree. From his tumultuous, unpredictable home life and risk behaviors to his extreme learning disabilities and temptations on the street, Christian relied on his resiliency to overcome. His book,’The Resilience Breakthrough’ thoroughly defines resiliency, discusses the power of resiliency and examines 27 tools to ‘turn adversity into action.’

His program ‘Why Try’ has been implemented in organizations around the world. It is continuing to help shape the lives of at-risk youth by providing knowledge and tools to battle negative reactions, frustration and poor decision making in the face of adversity.

Bonnie Bernard: Author of ‘The Foundations of Resiliency Framework’ Through her strength based approach to research, Bernard has identified 3 factors that can increase the Resiliency in youth. Also identified are those components that need to exist for the motivation of at-risk youth to increase and override the impacts of negative life factors.

Nan Henderson: Author of ‘Resiliency in Action’ and Co-Founder and President of Resiliency in Action. The goal of her life work is to ‘share the growing body of social science research that documents how people of all ages bounce back from life challenges of all kinds’. She has worked closely with Bonnie Bernard in research, writing and lecturing on Resiliency, increasing resiliency in at- risk youth and creating an environment where kids can thrive through high expectations, increased motivation and positive relationships.

Howard Gardner: 9 Multiple Intelligences

Gardner’s powerful research helps kids understand, ‘It’s not a matter of IF you are smart, but rather HOW you are smart.’ When students are introduced to this research and begin to identify their strong and weak intelligences, their struggles in certain subjects make much more sense. This understanding is extremely liberating for many at-risk kids who equate their struggles in a particular subject with not being smart. This also ties into resiliency and growth mindsets as an important piece of reframing kid’s view of intelligence and academic growth and achievement.


Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Tara Brown is president of Learner's Edge Consulting and an award-winning educator, author and international speaker. She holds a Masters degree in Administration and Supervision and is a nationally certified Personal Trainer.

Known as ‘The Connection Coach’, Tara’s 30-year professional journey as a teacher and coach has taken her coast to coast from rural Florida to gang territory in California and to one of the largest high schools in Tennessee with over 40 countries represented. Her international engagements have included Dubai and Beirut working with both teachers and youth.

During the 1990’s, Tara worked with ‘Communities in Schools’, the leading nonprofit dropout prevention organization in the nation and established a successful program at Lindbergh Middle School in Long Beach, Ca. She worked closely with at-risk teens, many who were entrenched in the gang lifestyle, and helped empower them with leadership and life skills and reshape their view of the future.

In 2005, in Nashville Tn., Tara played a key role in piloting a Leadership Development program at Antioch High School targeting non-traditional leaders. Because of the success of this program, it expanded to all high schools in Davidson County and earned Tara the ‘Pioneer Award’ and ‘Teacher of the Year’ award in 2006.

Since leaving the classroom, Tara’s passion and humor continues to drive her work with adults around the globe. Her goal is to motivate, inspire and to better equip adults with the ability to connect and have meaningful relationships with kids of all ages, so their potential can truly be unleashed.

Start Date

10-27-2017 8:15 AM

End Date

10-27-2017 9:30 AM

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Oct 27th, 8:15 AM Oct 27th, 9:30 AM

Growth Mindset and Resiliency: 2 Keys to Unleashing the Potential of Under-Resourced Youth


The mindset of at-risk students plays a huge role in their motivation and achievement. Carolyn Dweck's powerful research on Mindsets is a key to helping educators help students redefine how they view success and how to reach it. Understanding how to help students reframe their thinking and embrace a growth mindset will increase their resiliency, self-confidence and belief in their future.