“I Will.”

2017 Annual Report
Joe Cavanaugh speaking to students on a microphone

Our Founder and CEO, Joe Cavanaugh, facilitating a retreat for 11th-grade students about leadership and responsibility.


As many of you have witnessed, our retreats can have powerful and profound – even life-saving – outcomes for young people. I recently heard the following story from one of our new Retreat Staff members, Mayyadda Major. She was facilitating a Respect Retreat® for ninth graders in Brookfield, Wis. Like on all of our retreats, there were several 11th- and 12th-grade students volunteering as small-group leaders for the day, guiding the ninth-grade students into deeper conversation about the importance of respecting self, others and standing up for values in their hallways, lunch lines and classrooms.


A senior small-group leader approached Mayyadda after the retreat concluded and said, “Thank you for what you do. I hope you know these retreats aren’t just fun and games … they really matter. When I was in ninth grade, I was in a painful place, and this retreat inspired me to talk to my parents and get the mental health support I needed to recover. I wouldn’t be here today giving back if you hadn’t woken me up three years ago. You saved my life. Thank you.”


As a new staff member, Mayyadda hadn’t yet seen the powerful impact of our retreats. She, along with the rest of our amazing staff, is getting up every day to travel far across the Midwest to make a difference in schools and in young people’s lives. Our staff is empowering students to act with character – to say, “I will do what is right” instead of “I should.” Your support makes that possible.


For thirty years, we’ve remained true to our mission to build positive communities where students thrive by helping young people navigate the often turbulent years of growing up by embracing character and living a life guided by timeless values.


This commitment has allowed us to impact more than 1.7 million students and educators since 1987. With your help, the 2016-17 school year was another record-breaking year. We worked with 126,934 students and educators on 861 retreats. As we approach our 30th year, we are dreaming new dreams to broaden our impact for the next 30 years.


Thank you for allowing us to help future generations act with greater character and civility. Thank you for helping us make tomorrow’s world better.

 Our mission  is to partner with schools to build communities where students thrive socially, emotionally and academically.
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36 more retreats were facilitated than in the 2015-16 school year.

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126,934 students and educators experienced our retreats.

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9 out of 10 schools brought us back to help build a positive community.

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94% of school clients rate the quality of our Retreat Staff as excellent.

In March 2017, we sat down with students from Eastview Elementary and asked them to imagine their perfect school community. Students committed to taking steps to making their ideas a reality.


See their “I will” statements here.

Group of students clapping on a Youth Frontiers retreat

I will lead.


“I am a leader.” On paper, it’s a simple phrase. Spoken aloud by hundreds of 11th-grade students from schools across an entire community, it’s deeply moving. At any Youth Frontiers Leadership Conference (YFLC), the air reverberates with these declarations of character.


Read the full story.

2016 Character Award Winner Samantha HoangLong headshot

I will do good.


Our Minnesota Character Award winner, Samantha HoangLong, felt that this award “was a way to show others that being good and doing good can have positive repercussions. It was an opportunity for me to make an impact in the community, and I’m grateful for that.”


Read the full story.

2017 Character Award Winner Hannah Merlo sliding down a slide on a playground

I will connect.


For Hannah Merlo, receiving the Wisconsin Character Award was “such a humbling experience.” She was thrilled to share her passion projects in which she has invested years of her time. She hopes to keep connecting with her community and to one day volunteer abroad.


Read the full story.


It was amazing to witness donors pull through and truly support Youth Frontiers’ mission at the end of the 2016-17 school year. The demand for YF retreats was higher than the growth Youth Frontiers anticipated. In order to fund these additional retreats, donors stepped up and invested in the character development of the next generation. This included a generous matching gift from an anonymous donor’s foundation at the end of the fiscal year that helped YF reach and surpass their philanthropic goal.


Thanks to this support and the strong partnership between communities and schools, Youth Frontiers continues to be a stable investment. With prudent budgeting and the generosity of their donors, Youth Frontiers managed to end the year with a modest surplus. Guided by their board of directors, they used the surplus to keep staff compensation and benefits competitive and they also set aside part of the surplus for their reserves to maintain a healthy cash balance to help protect their financial future.


Thank you for your continued belief in Youth Frontiers. Their mission of building positive school communities where students can thrive would not be possible without you.


– David McFarland, Board Treasurer

Youth Frontiers entire staff

Youth Frontiers staff – summer 2017


Ended June 30, 2017

TOTAL REVENUE – $4,430,151
  • Program Fees – 51%

  • Donations – 48%

  • Other – 1%

TOTAL EXPENSES – $4,191,249
  • Program – 75%

  • Fundraising – 18%

  • Administrative – 7%

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 supporting our mission!


Special thanks to our board chairs, Nathan Dungan and Mary Wozniak, for their contributions to YF!

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

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

John Dulin, President, John Dulin Global Consulting

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

John Forliti, Retired Chaplain; Community Leader

Paul Grangaard, Founder & CEO, Circle Rock, LLC

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; Bestselling Author and Keynote Speaker

Jim McCorkell, Founder & CEO, College Possible

David R. McFarland, President & Chief Credit Officer, Marquette Transportation Finance, LLC

Chuck Mooty, President & CEO, Jostens, Inc.

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

Fred Senn, Founding Partner, Fallon Worldwide

Maureen Swan, President, MedTrend, Inc.

Heather Teskey, Vice President of Marketing Strategy, U.S. Bank

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, Director of Retail Stores, Apple, Inc.

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