Mission in Motion


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Joe and Tess

Our Founder and CEO, Joe Cavanaugh, with his daughter, Tess, at Highlands Elementary School’s Kindness Retreat in October 2015.


Since Youth Frontiers’ inception three decades ago, my role as a leader has evolved and our organization has grown. But one thing has remained constant: I still lead retreats each year. This direct work with students and educators renews my purpose and reminds me of the importance of our mission.


In the fall of 2015, I had the privilege of co-leading a Kindness Retreat® at Highlands Elementary School. This retreat was extra special for me because my 10-year-old daughter, Tess, was a participant. I watched as she connected with her classmates, as she talked about the issues they face at school, and as she pledged to act with more kindness every day. I was proud of our mission that day, but even more proud as a father.


Over the years, many of you – our incredible supporters – have entrusted us to work with your children and grandchildren on our character retreats. I now understand how profound that trust is and want to thank you for allowing us to be a piece of the puzzle in your children’s moral development.


The 2015-16 school year was another record-breaking year for Youth Frontiers. We worked with 125,381 students and educators on 825 retreats. We built momentum in Wisconsin and we started to build new programming to honor, renew and inspire educators. This progress is all thanks to you. You help us put our mission in motion every day so that we can inspire future generations to live with greater character and civility.


On behalf of the Youth Frontiers staff and board of directors, thank you for your continued belief in our mission. Your support allows us to change the way young people treat each other in schools so that today’s young people can make tomorrow’s world better.

 Our mission  is to partner with schools to build communities where students thrive socially, emotionally and academically.

The number one reason schools partnered with us was to improve student-to-student relationship skills.

80 percent

80% of students reported that since their Respect Retreat, they stand up for what they believe is right, even if others disagree with them.

92 percent

92% of students felt more confident to help someone who was being picked on after their Kindness Retreat.

school icon

86% of students stated that the Courage Retreat helped them understand how acting with courage can make a positive difference for them and their school.

During the 2015-16 school year, we updated our Respect Retreat® video to show how we help schools create a community built upon the value of respect.

See the retreat in action.


The Power of Music


“It’s amazing to know that what we do each and every day is so important and that music is such an integral part of our retreats,” Preston said. “It’s a powerful tool that we can use to bring people together or to help people when they are feeling down.”


Read the full story.

leaders on retreat

It Takes a Village


At Youth Frontiers, we recognize that at the root of our success is partnership. Without the support and commitment of donors, educators, parents and students our goal to build community and inspire character would not be possible.


Read the full story.

Character Award

The Character Award


Each school year, Youth Frontiers honors students who stand out as exceptional leaders among their peers with our Character Award. The 2015-16 awards went to three outstanding 12th graders who already have realized the importance of living and leading with character.


Read the full story.

balloon raffle

Be a Part of Our Story


Each year, Youth Frontiers hosts events that support our work and mission. Our goal is to create experiences that encourage connection and community. Here’s a recap of the events we hosted during the 2015-16 school year.


Read the full story.


Youth Frontiers continues to be a strong and stable investment year after year. Their unique funding model allows communities to support the character development of the next generation while keeping schools vested in their work. This model is viewed as a partnership and supports the overall message of Youth Frontiers.


Thanks to your generous support, Youth Frontiers had another record year – both in the number of students and educators reached by their retreats as well as in philanthropic support. Their careful management of expenses also helped them end the year with a surplus. Guided by their board of directors, they used the surplus to keep staff compensation and benefits competitive and to invest in new products and offerings to further the mission of Youth Frontiers around students, teachers and the community. They also set aside part of the surplus for their reserves to maintain a healthy cash balance, which helps protect their financial future.


On behalf of the board of directors, thank you for your support and helping keep Youth Frontiers’ mission in motion. We couldn’t do it without you.


– David McFarland, Board Treasurer

YF Staff

Ended June 30, 2016

TOTAL REVENUE – $3,968,908
  • Program Fees – 54%

  • Donations – 45%

  • Other – 1%

TOTAL EXPENSES – $3,741,158
  • Program – 78%

  • Development – 18%

  • Administrative – 4%

More financial details are available here.

Fully audited documents are available upon request.


Because of you, Youth Frontiers had another record-breaking year. We are deeply grateful to have the support of so many individuals, foundations and corporations. Thank you for helping us put our mission in motion!


Kenneth M. Bird, Ed. D., President & CEO, Avenue Scholars Foundation

Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO, Youth Frontiers, Inc.

Virginia “Ginny” Clark, Retired School Administrator; Community Leader

Carol Culp, Community Leader

Kenneth Dragseth, Ph.D., Director of Administrative Licensure and Lecturer, University of Minnesota

John Dulin, President, John Dulin Global Consulting

Nathan Dungan*, Founder & CEO, Share Save Spend, LLC

John Forliti, D. Min., Retired Chaplain; Community Leader

Paul Grangaard, President & CEO, Allen Edmonds

Dr. Bruce H. Jackson, Executive Director, C. Charles Jackson Foundation; CEO, The Institute of Applied Human Excellence

Dwight Johnson, Retired Chrysler Corporation Executive; Community Leader

Tom Langseth, Senior Vice President, Distribution Relationship Management, Allianz Life of North America

Richard Leider, Founder & Chairman, Inventure — The Purpose Company

Jim McCorkell, Founder & CEO, College Possible

David R. McFarland, Senior Vice President & Chief Credit Officer, Marquette Transportation Finance, Inc.

Chuck Mooty, CEO, Jostens, Inc.

Margrette Newhouse, Myers Chair in Management, College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University

Dean Phillips, Community Leader, The Phillips Family Office

Fred Senn, Founding Partner, Fallon Worldwide

Tim Thorpe, Executive Director, Pathways

Prince Wallace, CEO, West Central Environmental Consultants, Inc.

Dr. David Walsh, Founder & CEO, Mind Positive Parenting

Mary Daly Wozniak*, Owner & Principal, Shadowfalls Design

Duke Zurek, Retail Director, Apple, Inc.


*Board Chair

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