Press Release

America’s Promise Alliance, Boston University School of Education Join Forces to Better Understand What Helps Young People Thrive
Alliance’s research institute, the Center for Promise, moves to Boston University. Coming in September: Center for Promise to release new research on how caring adults can help young people stay on path to success.

Boston, MA and Washington DC (August 12, 2015) – The Center for Promise, America’s Promise Alliance’s research institute dedicated to understanding what young people need to thrive and how to create the conditions of success for all young people, is now housed at the Boston University School of Education. With a shared commitment to using research to find solutions that will improve outcomes for young people, this joint effort marks the first partnership between BU and America’s Promise.

Launched in 2012, the Center for Promise’s research supports the GradNation campaign, a movement led by America’s Promise to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and increase college enrollment and completion. 

Last year, the Center for Promise released “Don’t Call Them Dropouts,” a major exploration into why some young people are still failing to graduate despite historic advances in graduation rates.

This fall, the Center will release a second study shedding light on the power of relationships to help struggling young people get on a path to success.

“Boston University is committed to generating knowledge that benefits society,” said BU President Robert A. Brown.  “By bringing the Center for Promise to BU we broaden and deepen the School of Education’s capacity to better understand youth who are at risk for school failure and find ways to significantly reduce that risk.  I am confident our society will benefit from the work of the researchers at this Center and I am delighted that we are able to work in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance.”

“We’re so pleased to partner with Boston University’s School of Education in a search to understand how to help all young people reach their full potential,” said John Gomperts, president & CEO of America’s Promise. “BU offers us access to a great research university and the opportunity to work together with leading scholars to discover the keys to a new generation’s success.”

The Center for Promise has six full-time staff members, including Executive Director Dr. Jonathan Zaff, who will also hold a post as a Research Associate Professor at BU; Associate Director Marissa Cole; two research scientists, Dr. Elizabeth Pufall Jones and Dr. Alice Donlan; and lead youth engagement specialist, Craig McClay, who works closely with youth engagement facilitator and analyst Melissa Maharaj.  Part-time staff will consist of a number of doctoral and masters research assistants. 

“Our goal at the Center for Promise is to provide communities and individuals with the knowledge they need to create the conditions so they can improve young people’s chances for success,” said Dr. Zaff.  “Our collaboration with the BU School of Education and its esteemed faculty strengthens our ability to contribute to this work.”

The Center for Promise’s agenda for future study includes: 

  • Comprehensive Community Initiatives Promoting Positive Youth Development: Examination of how communities come together to support their young people so that their young people can achieve academically, and how young people develop within those communities.
  • Reconnecting Disconnected Youth: Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of the characteristics of dropouts; about why they leave school, the barriers they face while they reconnect with educational settings, and the characteristics of the settings that encourage dropouts to return to educational experiences and persist to high school graduation.
  • The Factors that Promote Educational Attainment: Mixed-methods studies, in collaboration with school districts and CBOs, to understand the educational trajectories and social-emotional competencies of middle and high school students. The focus of this work is on how the alignment between internal and ecological assets can encourage positive trajectories for young people.
  • Youth Engagement: Exploration and synthesis of the best practices and programs throughout the country for engaging youth as agents of change in their communities.
  • Race and Culture: Examination of the influence of race and cultural factors on children and youth well-being, especially minorities and impoverished young people, and how they gain access to and experience the Five Promises (Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Health Start, Effective Education, and Opportunities to Help Others). This study is being conducted jointly with key America’s Promise partners.

“Our mission is to prepare professionals to make a difference in the lives of all children and produce scholarship that improves the practice of education,” said BU School of Education Dean Hardin Coleman. “We look forward to collaborating with the Center of Promise to use their research to improve the ability of our graduates to meet the needs of youth in this country.”

Follow Center for Promise on Twitter @Center4Promise. To learn more about current and upcoming research briefs and reports from the Center for Promise, visit:

The Center for Promise is the research institute for America’s Promise Alliance, housed at Boston University’s School of Education and dedicated to understanding what young people need to thrive and how to create the conditions of success for all young people.

America’s Promise Alliance leads more than 400 organizations, communities and individuals dedicated to making the promise of America real for every child. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century workforce.

The BU School of Education is dedicated to preparing the next generation of educators and scholars who use their skills to transform the lives of children.

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