For the Next Generation

2022 Annual Report

Joe Cavanaugh
Founder and CEO, Youth Frontiers

Nicole Sullivan
President, Youth Frontiers


Some define a generation as 20 years. Others, 30. For Youth Frontiers — at this momentous anniversary — we unequivocally can say that, to us, a generation is 35.


Youth Frontiers has grown up. We have gained institutional wisdom over our tenure working with students in schools. That wisdom has given us more to say to more people — young adults, educators, parents, leaders — yet our core message remains the same: character matters.


Every coming-of-age story has its periods of growth, times of stretching beyond previous limits to become something more and achieve something greater. YF is at the beginning of a 2-3 year growth phase. We are making key investments in our staff, critical systems, and programs — investments that will enable us to remain both stable and nimble enough to meet the evolving needs of our community. In fiscal year 2022, those investments meant that we ended with an operational deficit. Due to our healthy cash reserves and Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness, we have absorbed that deficit and remain on track to greater impact.


Youth Frontiers is on the rise. Even as the pandemic shook us, new pieces of our mission fell into place: our innovative programs are deepening and expanding our reach; we’re underscoring our core message in the community; our next generation of leaders at YF is leaning in. Our financial position remains strong, our strategy sound, our people committed.


Last year, we saw a solid rate of programmatic growth. We tripled the number of programs we delivered from the previous year and reached more than 43,000 people. We are growing — fast — because the need for our mission continues to grow. We have programs to help meet that need. We are investing in hiring and training to ensure we have great people to meet that need. To succeed, we must have strong partners to help us meet that need, too.


Will you join us? Will you sign your name to the cause? Will you leave a legacy of character for the next generation, and for all generations to come?


May YF’s 35th anniversary year be a letter to our community, filled with our hopes, dreams and plans for calling a better day to rise — a day when our next generation of leaders is grounded in character and all can thrive.


Joe Cavanaugh, Founder and CEO & Nicole Sullivan, President

We provide experiences that inspire character, civility and community.
We envision a future where our next generation of leaders is grounded in character.

338 Youth Frontiers retreats, programs and experiences spread character this year — triple the number we delivered last year!

43,266 students, educators and community members across the Midwest and beyond experienced our retreats. That’s nearly 10 times the people we served last year!

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

Impact on Youth

“I continue to be super impressed with the talented people that visit us from Youth Frontiers. The kids loved them and really made a connection with them. I saw several of our more challenging kids hanging on their every word! SO impressed with the Youth Frontiers Kindness Retreats!”
— Elementary School Counselor, NE


Kindness Retreat

“I’m an 8th grader who went to the Courage Retreat yesterday, and I didn’t get a chance to tell the instructors thank you. It was such an eye opener. I wanted to tell you that you guys had an impact on me. That was an experience that I will never forget. It made me realize how I can be a better person to others and to myself.”  — Student Participant, WI 

Courage Retreat

After the Respect Retreat, student participants complete a survey about the impact of their retreat experience.


In the 2021-22 school year, 85 percent of survey respondents agree that since the Respect Retreat, they show more respect for others who may not share their views.



Respect Retreat

“To be a good leader, I first need to make sure that I am keeping myself in check. I need to have compassion, perspective, confidence, and presence. If I have these, I will be set to lead others in the right direction.” — Student Participant, IA





Character Academy

  • Agreed: 90%

  • Disagreed: 10%

Since the Kindness Retreat, I feel more confident to help someone who is being picked on.

  • Agreed: 88%

  • Disagreed: 12%

The Courage Retreat helped me understand how acting with courage can make a positive difference for me and my school.

  • Agreed: 92%

  • Disagreed: 8%

[Since the Respect Retreat] I am respectful to all the students in this school, not just my friends.

  • Agreed: 97%

  • Disagreed: 3%

Character Academy inspired me to use my leadership to make a positive difference in my community.


It was a chilly, damp morning. Eighth-grader Elizabeth was dodging raindrops and running late. She had just left a conversation with her school counselor about volunteering at a Youth Frontiers retreat at her old elementary school — and now she needed to get to her own. Elizabeth rushed out of the mist and into the middle school gym where her class’s Courage Retreat was just beginning.


“I just remember the gym being warm, not in a temperature sense, but warm, just like in the atmosphere,” Elizabeth said. “Everyone was super welcoming, but all the students were still questioning like, ‘Will I have fun here? Will this be a great day?'”


Elizabeth resolved that, for her part, it would be. “My mom always has raised my brother and I to think, ‘You get out what you put in.’ So I just decided that being all-in was going to lead me to just learn the most.”

After a day of community-building, storytelling, and meaningful conversations, it became clear that Elizabeth’s class had chosen to learn, too. At the end of the retreat, the eighth graders got the opportunity to share one way they will practice courage moving forward. Many stepped up.


“I heard from a lot of kids that I would sort of think of as the troublemakers and the loud kids … just walk up to the microphone and say, ‘Hey, I’m sorry that I bully people, and my act of courage is just to be sticking up for other people instead of being the one people have to stick up against.'”


Buoyed by her experience, Elizabeth left school excited for the next day’s Kindness Retreat and ready to give her all, all over again. According to Elizabeth, it paid off.


“I learned as much being a leader as I did being a participant,” she said. “Just seeing those fifth graders change … it was an amazing experience seeing all of them being more vulnerable or just … being more of themselves.”


For Elizabeth, that’s what the Kindness and Courage retreats were all about. “Youth Frontiers retreats help kids understand how to be the best version of themselves on a deeper level,” she concluded.

Impact on Educators

“The Honor Retreat was exactly what our staff needed (and many of them didn’t even know they needed it!)  It was a wonderful blend of reflection, connection, and entertainment.  As a principal with a limited budget, I found this worth every penny.” — Principal, WI

Honor Retreat

“The most meaningful part of the retreat was helping me center myself and remind me of why I started going down this path [of education].” — Teacher, MN

Purpose Retreat

“I have left each workshop feeling more inspired. You have helped to refill my bucket at times when it was pretty empty and for that I am grateful.” — Virtual Conference Participant

Elements Series

  • Agreed: 98%

  • Disagreed: 2%

After the Honor Retreat, I feel a stronger sense of community with my colleagues.

  • Agreed: 100%

  • Disagreed: 0%

The Purpose Retreat reminded me of why I continue in the noble profession of education.

  • Agreed: 100%

  • Disagreed: 0%

Because of this conference, I feel more inspired to continue in my important work as an educator.


In January 2022, Youth Frontiers launched a 5-part virtual concert series to honor our educators. Each mini performance featured a talented YF or community musician and an encouraging message from YF programs facilitator, Jane Leyden.

Impact on Community Members

“[I valued] the thought-provoking questions and the path to helping young people become the responsible, empathetic adults and parents for the next generation.” — Participant, Spring 2022

  • Agreed: 100%

  • Disagreed: 0%

I would recommend this program to other parents.


In December 2021, Youth Frontiers launched our first Week of Character. In a five-part audio series, Joe Cavanaugh, Founder & CEO of Youth Frontiers; Head of Leadership Frontiers, shared a reflection with nearly 8,000 members of our YF community to offer inspiration and support as we all strive to live with character.

Impact on Leaders

In Spring 2022, Leadership Frontiers hosted our second-annual Geometry of a Leader Conference. Nearly 200 leaders signed up to join us for a chance to to step back, connect and gain new tools for leading with their values even — and especially — when it’s difficult.

  • Agreed: 100%

  • Disagreed: 0%

The Geometry of a Leader has increased my confidence in my ability to lead with character.

  • Agreed: 100%

  • Disagreed: 0%

The Geometry of a Leader has equipped me with tools I need to face today’s leadership challenges.

  • Agreed: 98%

  • Disagreed: 2%

The Geometry of a Leader has deepened my commitment to making my workplace and my community better for all.

 “As a new business owner, this has been such an amazing experience for me. It made me uncomfortable, which forced me to think and grow as a leader.”

“Being able to talk with peers across all sections of business/nonprofit — safe spaces to talk with different points of view matter. It is support, it is thought diversification, it builds bridges and strengthens our workplaces.” 

“As I mentor young professionals, these principles are critical to my ability to authentically support their intention or goals to become the best leaders they can become.” 


Leadership Frontiers’ Character Angle Conversations explored how leaders navigate the tension between “ideal” leadership and “real” leadership. In this first one-hour session, Joe Cavanaugh hosted Tim Welsh, Vice Chair and Head of Consumer and Business Banking at U.S. Bank, and Ann Miller, Talent Development Program Manager at Liberty Diversified International who shared how they are succeeding (and sometimes failing) at cultivating humility and connection in their workplaces and communities. Lively Q&A and small-group discussion allowed participants to share tips and encouragement with each other.


“Youth Frontiers’ remarkable innovation last year became this year’s platform; our successful experiments with new mediums and audiences became this year’s standard programming. Through all of the changes, our strong balance sheet has provided YF with a stable foundation, enabling us to deliver these experiences and make strategic investments in our program diversification. As content and delivery mediums evolve, the core mission of YF remains the same: to provide experiences that inspire character, civility and community. More and more audiences are seeking the YF experience, eager to get re-equipped with timeless, foundational tools for working through today’s challenges and opportunities. Thanks to the amazing support from our donors, YF continues to exist to provide these programs. Thanks to the amazing work by everyone in the organization, YF continues to deliver these programs and inspire positive change in our communities.”


— Jon Reissner, President, Activar, Inc.; Board Chair, Youth Frontiers


Ended June 30, 2022

TOTAL REVENUE – $3,579,442
  • Program Fees: 26%

  • Donations: 56%

  • PPP Loan Forgiveness: 18%

TOTAL EXPENSES – $2,953,757
  • Programs: 74%

  • Fundraising: 16%

  • Administrative: 10%


Fully audited documents are available upon request.


Youth Frontiers fuels our mission through a nearly equal split between client program fees and the generosity of our donors. This model reduces costs for schools and nonprofits who cannot afford to pay full price for our programs, while keeping them vested in the experience. It takes the commitment of a community to spread kindness and curiosity, responsibility and respect, compassion and courage. Thank you, our generous donors, for investing in our mission and in the legacy we are leaving for the generations to come.



Special thanks to the members of our board, mission advisory committee, and local councils who are partnering with Youth Frontiers to lay the foundation for the next 35 years of our mission and beyond.

Ben Tierney, Director of Excellence, Catholic Schools Center of Excellence

Brandi Redburn†, Principal, St. Columbkille Catholic School

Brett Frevert, Managing Director, CFO Systems, LLC

Bridgett Gonzalez‡, Program Officer, Bader Philanthropies

Chase Sutton†, Financial Advisor, Renaissance Financial Corporation

Debbie Finnicum, Guidance Counselor, DC West Middle School

Doug Sutko†, Managing Director, Commercial Banking, First National Bank of Omaha

Dwight Johnson, Retired Chrysler Corporation Executive

Elizabeth Dickson†, School Counselor, Millard South High School

Eric Iverson, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Specialist, Mounds View Public Schools

Forrest Newburg†, VP, Commercial Banking, Union Bank & Trust

Heather Teskey, Chief Marketing Officer, Deluxe Corporation

Isadora Korak, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Winnebago Industries

Jackie Herd-Barber, Community Volunteer

Jan Brown†, Chair, Countryside Community Church

Jane Laughlin†, Principal, King Science & Technology

Jayne Hladio‡, Consultant

Jeff Voelkel‡, Retired, American Family Insurance 

Jen Roe Darling, President & CEO, Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation

Jim Haver†, Assistant Principal, Lewis Central High School

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

Josie McDonnell†, Social Emotional Learning Supervisor, Omaha Public Schools

Jon Reeves, Principal, St. Michael-Albertville High School

Jon Reissner**, President, Activar

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

Kathy English†, COO, Children’s Hospital and Medical Center

Kevin Dasher†, VP, Northwest Bank

Kevin Rotman, Audit Senior Manager, Deloitte & Touche

Dr. Kim Anderson Khan‡, Psychotherapist, Children’s Wisconsin

Kim Saum-Mills†, Executive Director of Leadership and Strategic Planning, Millard School District

Kristal Melbye‡, Parent Coach

Kristi Newburg†, Psychotherapist & CEO, Counseling Connections & Associates

Mark McIlmoyle, Education Leader

Mark Newsome, Chief Financial Officer, Refrigerated Solutions Group

Matt Curtis†, Assistant Principal & Athletic Director, Gretna High School

Dr. Michael Lovett, Adjunct Faculty, University of Minnesota & University of St. Thomas

Michelle McKenna, Counselor, Brookfield East High School

Mitch Dorr, Principal, St. John the Baptist Catholic School

Molly Bell‡, Founder, Bloom For Girls

Nicole Kalley†, Parent, Westside district

Paige Roberts, Principal, Reeder Elementary School

Paul Omodt, Owner and Principal, Omodt & Associates Critical Communications

Renato Westby, Director of New Program Development, Common Hope

Ruban Cano†, Principal, Omaha South High Magnet

Ryan Vandewiele, Vice President & General Counsel, Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.

Sherri Schendzielos, Assistant Principal, Blaine High School

Tiffany Ogle, TV Host, The Morning Blend

Tim McNeal, Partner, RSM US LLP

Tim Stewert‡, President & Managing Partner of DeWitt

Tom Langseth, Financial Executive, SPIRE Retirement & Investment Services

Will Berigan, Wealth Advisor and President, Shamrock Wealth Management


(Unmarked names designate FY23 Mission Advisory Council member)

*FY22 & FY23 board member

**FY22 & FY23 board chair

†FY22 Omaha Advisory Committee member

‡FY22 Wisconsin Advisory Committee member


Thank you for supporting our mission!