For the Sake of Our Youth

2019 Annual Report

Our Founder and CEO, Joe Cavanaugh, speaking at our 10th-Annual Ethical Leadership Luncheon.


Each year, this report provides an opportunity to pause and reflect on all the triumphs and challenges that Youth Frontiers and those we serve — students, educators, community members — faced. Youth Frontiers is committed to bringing out the best in our community’s young people. We are here. We are standing up and speaking out more boldly than ever for character and community — for connection in our disconnected world. All for the sake of our kids.


Our mission is strong. Thirty-two years of inspiring character and building community strong. Last year, we surpassed working with 2 million students and educators. This year, we are looking to expand that work even further to reach more adults so our kids have more role models of character.


A few highlights from last year:


We expanded our leadership work with students from seven student leadership conferences to eight and held our first-ever Young Women’s Leadership Conference. This conference alone reached 12 schools and nearly 200 young women. It was a powerful experience. One participant said, “I accept responsibility for unity. Together we are more powerful. I hope that together all of our leadership commitments can unite our schools, unite us as women, and unite us as a society.”


In our emerging work with educator cohorts, we doubled our goal, supporting twice as many educators as we anticipated. Being an educator in today’s classrooms is a seemingly impossible job, but after participating in our program educators tell us they are returning to their schools reconnected to their purpose and more inspired to continue in their critical work teaching students. One principal said, “When I have forgotten my way, Youth Frontiers brings me home.”


We expanded our YCorps internship program. It’s a landing place for recent college grads and an opportunity for our future leaders to grow in confidence, engage in professional development, gain life skills and be a part of our mission with kids. The young adults leaving our YCorps program carry the YF way into the world with them — a world that so desperately needs to see a better way.


Our work with students, schools and the community is thriving because we have steadfast support from exemplary pillars of leadership in our community. One such leader, and a mentor to me, passed away recently — but his legacy will long outlive him. Chuck Denny was a founding board member and generous supporter of our work at Youth Frontiers for many years, and part of the legacy he leaves is passing the values of presence, humility, and courage on to the next generation.


Every year, we have the opportunity to highlight some of the incredible young people we get to meet with our Youth Frontiers Character Award. This year, in honor of the legacy Chuck has left — and in great anticipation of a future filled with more leaders like him — we have renamed our Character Award the Chuck Denny Legacy Character Award. We hope our work, the work he helped shape, will inspire many more kids to grow into adults and into leaders like Chuck. This school year, we’ll be working with 130,000 students, educators and community members to this end.


We know we’re not the solution to so much that ails our society. But our message of character is the solution. I invite you in this upcoming year of challenges in our community and nation to help us carry this message forward and to live with great presence, humility and courage in 2020.

 Our mission  is to provide schools with experiences that inspire character, civility and community.

The #1 reason schools partner with Youth Frontiers is to improve school climate.

127,594 students, educators and community members experienced our retreats.

844 schools partnered with us to inspire character and build community.

89% of school partners rate the quality of our Programs Staff as excellent.

Character matters.
We believe it can and must be inspired.

Watch our manifesto video.


The Ripple Effect


The ripple effect of one student… It started with Renee. And spread to a group of boys she inspired. And made a difference in the life of one student who needed someone to stand up for him. That’s the power of one person… standing up.

See the Ripple Effect

100 Begins With One


Over our 13 years in Nebraska, Youth Frontiers has reached nearly 100,000 students and educators. But we know our work isn’t done. Our goal for Nebraska is 100 experiences each year. One hundred begins with one. Will you join us for the first step?

See the impact

Vivica Lewis


Vivica, of Carmen High School of Science & Technology, Wis., received the Character Award for her mentorship and outspoken student advocacy, particularly for women of color in the STEM field.

See her story

“Last year, Youth Frontiers reached a significant milestone, inspiring character in more than two million students and educators since 1987! Thank you to all of our donors for making this possible — it is because of you that we can build the character of the next generation in new and meaningful ways.”


– Heather Teskey, Youth Frontiers Board Chair; Chief Marketing Officer, Financial Services, Deluxe

“My participation on Youth Frontiers’ board has allowed me to personally experience the great accountability and financial stewardship of the resources used to bring their mission to life around character, civility, and community.”


— Jon Reissner, President, Activar, Inc.

Youth Frontiers Staff – Summer 2019


Ended June 30, 2019

TOTAL REVENUE – $4,844,574
  • Program Fees: 52%

  • Donations: 48%

TOTAL EXPENSES – $5,029,765
  • Programs: 75%

  • Fundraising: 17%

  • Administrative: 8%


Fully audited documents are available upon request.


Last year, Youth Frontiers surpassed working with 2 million students and educators since 1987 — and we could not have done it without you. We are deeply grateful to have the support of so many individuals, foundations and corporations. Thank you for supporting our mission!




“Human beings learn through experience, through connection and also through a lot of fun. Youth Frontiers is able to bridge all those things: take really, really juicy content and present it in a way that’s fun, that’s meaningful, that’s uncomfortable at times and very eye-opening. I think it removes kids from their typical, traditional space, puts them in a new environment, where it just opens up their minds to a new way of thinking. I think that’s why it works.”


— Ann Miller, 100th Anniversary Project Manager, Liberty Diversified International; Youth Frontiers Board Member



“In today’s divisive climate, empathy is an important key to bridging our differences and finding solutions to our challenges. The Youth Frontiers retreats have created a space within a busy school schedule to pause, listen and be present as a community, and therefore allow the empathetic process to occur. I believe that Youth Frontiers encourages students to be open to reflect on how their words and actions affect others and how they are an important piece of the whole school community. In this age of isolation, emphasis on social media, and the popularity of unkind public discourse, we need programs like Youth Frontiers to pause, reflect, share, listen, and be a force for positive action.”


— Katherine Hoberman, Early Childhood Educator, Duchesne Academy, NE



“Kindness, Courage, Respect, Leadership and Wisdom — five important words that Youth Frontiers shares through their retreats with the youth of Wisconsin. Each year Youth Frontiers increases the number of retreats impacting more and more of our youth. Our youth are growing up in very difficult times. These retreats teach respect and kindness for all including themselves. We are passionate about this organization and it’s important message.”


— Jane and Mike Malone, Community Members, WI



Special thanks to our board chair, Heather Teskey, for her contributions to Youth Frontiers! We are also grateful to our outgoing board members, Fred Senn and Chuck Mooty, for their nine years of dedicated service and commitment to ensuring our next generation of leaders is grounded in character.

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

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

John Dulin, Vice President, Corning

John Forliti, Retired Chaplain; Community Leader

Karen Hohertz-Jacobs, Senior Director, Procurement Operations and Cost Transformation, Best Buy

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

Jim McCorkell, Founder & CEO, College Possible

Jon Reissner, President, Activar

Heather Teskey*, Chief Marketing Officer, Financial Services, Deluxe

Ryan Vandewiele, Vice President, General Counsel, Hubbard Broadcasting

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

Dr. David Walsh, Co-Founder, Spark & Stitch Institute

Duke Zurek, Director of Retail Stores, Apple, Inc.

*board chair