Key Strategic Linkages

Children and youth ask big questions all the time. Just think about it. They constantly ask “Why?” They wonder “What if …?” They seek big answers and challenge adults when faced with questions that are sometimes greater than we imagined. Young people face considerably more difficult conditions and situations than 10 years ago. The world is a faster, more complicated place now, and youth are challenged in ways our society has not yet addressed.

It is the job of adults to make our communities safer for young people. Leaders and those in positions of power must create conditions that enable youth to thrive in such a way that the world, once placed in their hands, is better for it. By asking big questions, community leaders can begin to understand what we need to know about the youth in Wake County in order to foster an environment where they receive the supports they need to become productive adults. As a community, we must constantly remain aware of the realities that our youth face. At the same time, we must continuously strive to align our work to the needs of the community, and then with each other as agencies and organizations serving youth.

We encourage you to use the resources listed below and throughout our Key Strategic Linkages pages to support youth. If you know of additional resources, please let us know. We are constantly searching for the most up-to-date and evidence-based programs, toolkits, and data.


Civic Engagement and Service

Emotional Well-Being


Physical Health

Educational Success

Workforce Development

Racial Equity

Youth Thrive is deeply saddened about the state of our local and national community. We are still in grief about the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the many other citizens whose names we know and others whose names we may never know. These reoccurring tragedies are constant and consistent reminders of how systemic racism and oppression are specifically experienced by the African American community.

Our young people cannot thrive in environments that allow, accommodate, or perpetuate injustice. We cannot be silent about racism, nor can we be inactive. As we strive to support the well-being of all Wake County youth, we will continue to be particularly intentional and assertive in our advocacy for social justice and anti-racism efforts centered on black and brown youth. We will continue to aim for programs, policies, and practices that move us toward a fair and just society. There is much work to be done, and we will continue to provide additional resources to move us forward. 

Learn more about racial equity here.

LGBTQ+ Youth

Sexual orientation and gender are important aspects of a young person’s identity. Understanding and expressing sexual orientation and gender and developing related identities are typical development tasks that vary across children and youth. Unfortunately, many LGBTQ+ youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes. It is critical for the parents, guardians, and other family members of LGBTQ+ youth to have access to the resources they need to ensure their LGBT children are protected and supported. A 2018 Human Rights Campaign LGBTQ+ Youth Report found the following:

  • 77% of LGBTQ+ teenagers surveyed report feeling depressed or down over the past week
  • 95% of LGBTQ+ youth report trouble sleeping at night
  • LGBTQ+ youth of color and transgender teenagers experience unique challenges and elevated stress, only 11% of youth of color surveyed believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the U.S., and over 50% of trans and gender-expansive youth said they can never use school restrooms that align with their gender identity
  • More than 70% report feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the past week
  • Only 26% say they always feel safe in their school classrooms -- and just 5% say all of their teachers and school staff are supportive of LGBTQ+ people
  • 67% report that they’ve heard family members make negative comments about LGBTQ+ people.

Learn more about supporting LGBTQ+ youth here.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs, are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood (0-17 years). For example:

  • Experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect
  • Witnessing violence in the home or community
  • Having a family member attempt or die by suicide

Also included are aspects of the child’s environment that can undermine their sense of safety, stability, and bonding such as growing up in a household with:

  • Substance misuse
  • Mental health problems
  • Instability due to parental separation or household members being in jail or prison

ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. ACEs can also negatively impact education and job opportunities. However, ACEs can be prevented.

Learn more about ACEs here.


Youth experiencing homelessness are sometimes referred to as “unaccompanied” youth and are individuals under the age of 18 who lack parental, foster, or institutional care.

  • The National Center for Housing and Child Welfare states there are between 1 million and 1.7 million youth experiencing homelessness who have run away or have been asked to leave their homes.
  • According to the US Department of HHS, 61.8% of youth experiencing homelessness reported depression, 71.7% reported experiencing major trauma such as physical or sexual abuse, 79.5% experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder for more than a month.
  • Youth experiencing homelessness are evenly male-female, although females are more likely to seek help through shelters and hotlines.
  • 75% of youth experiencing homelessness have dropped out or will drop out of school.
  • Between 20% and 40% of youth experiencing homelessness identify as LGBTQ+.

Learn more about homelessness here.


Latinx Youth

The Latinx community is growing at an unprecedented rate in North Carolina, snd now more than ever, it is crucial for professionals to understand best practices when working with Latinx students and families. Latinx youth also face inequitable barriers and access to supports and resources to help them thrive. We must be intentional when working with Latinx youth and breakdown those barriers of financial assets, healthcare, housing, education, transportation (driver's license), and federal and local anti-immigration legislation.

Learn more about Latinx youth here.

Positive Youth Development

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a framework for how a community can support all youth so they can grow up fully prepared, fully engaged, healthy, and develop to their full potential. This framework is broken down into sections: policies and practices, high expectations, skill-building, engagement, routine and structure, relationships, and strategic support and collaboration. Through these sections, youth learn and have opportunities for long-term organizational involvement with adults and are fully prepared for success in school, work, and life.

Learn more about positive youth development here.


Whole Child Model

NC Healthy Schools focuses on improving the health of students and staff by providing coordination and resources within the context of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model (shown below). The goal is to create students who are healthier, in school, in class, and ready to learn. Students who are healthier are more alert, more focused on learning, and miss less school. They not only learn better in every class, but they also learn lifelong healthy behaviors.

Learn more about the whole child model here.

NC DPI K12 Standards: NC Healthy Schools

Human Trafficking Prevention

Trafficking in persons, also known as modern slavery or human trafficking, includes both forced labor and sex trafficking and is a global concern. According to the Polaris Project, 25 million people are trafficked worldwide, and North Carolina ranks 11th in the United States.

The NC Department of Administration reported in 2019, 266 cases of trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. They report, however, that because of the nature of this crime, the actual number of cases is much higher. "Human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the United States with North Carolina among the most affected states. Major interstate highways, a large and transient military population surrounded by sexually oriented businesses, numerous rural agricultural areas with a high demand for cheap labor, and an increasing number of gangs all contribute to making our state a hotbed for human trafficking."

Anyone can be a victim of trafficking, however certain communities experience a greater risk of trafficking. Some of these vulnerable communities include:

  • Women
  • Youth
  • Black/Indigenous/People of Color (BIPOC)
  • Members of the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly trans individuals
  • Immigrants
  • Individuals experiencing homelessness
  • Children in the foster care/child welfare system
  • Persons with histories of trauma and abuse, particularly sexual or domestic violence

Learn more about human trafficking here.