"The Pathways Sauce"



The Pathways program is the flagship program of the Pro Deo Foundation. The program was born out of a strong desire to help students flourish in life. While we see the value of traditional after school programs, we wanted to create something that was different from most youth oriented programs that currently exist.

Pathways Vision:

To close the opportunity gap for under served students by helping them to discover their place,passion, and purpose through work, business, and entrepreneurial training.

Elevator Pitch:

The Pathways program teaches work skills, business skills, and entrepreneurial skills in an after-school program where students learn to make handmade and custom products sold primarily in our retail shops called Coastland. Students also earn the profits from product sales. The Pathways program also provides mentoring and wrap around services, such as tutoring, spiritual care, mental health, social skills, financial literacy, and more. We are committed to helping the whole student take the necessary steps to be successful post-high school.


Pathways is Progressive

The Pathways program is designed to be progressive, meaning that as students participate in the program, they will continue to learn and master new skills. Program directors and managers will need to track where students are in the program and encourage the next steps in their progress to advance through their current phase and into the next one. It is important to note that you might have a group of students at different stages in the program, and it will be the director's job to create program appropriate opportunities for students that match their current phase.

The progressiveness of Pathways is an essential aspect of the program. One of the key ways students bond to the program and adopt the desired behaviors and attitudes is through progressive skill development appropriate to where students are in the program.

Pathways Phases

Pathways consists of three phases with each phase having its own emphasis, targets, and desired outcomes.

Phase I-Work: The focus of Phase I is to teach students the skills necessary to be productive employees. While we do not want students to see themselves as employees of Pathways or our stores, we do, however, want them to learn the skills needed to be good employees.

Phase II-Ownership: The focus of Phase II is on business training and giving students ownership in various aspects of the business and program. During this phase, we want students to begin to see themselves as owners of the business and therefore learn and practice the basic skills necessary to keep production and sales moving forward.

Phase III-Launch: The final Pathways phase seeks to launch students into the next steps of their lives. In this phase, students learn and practice the most complex skills we teach. The skills we teach in this phase are less about making products and more about leadership, management, problem-solving, and entrepreneurial skills. Phase III is the phase we would help those students to launch their own businesses if they desired.

🎯Phase I-III Targets and Outcomes

Each phase of the Pathways program has targets and outcomes. These are the skills, ideas, concepts, and actions that we want students to know and do as they progress through the program. Some students may have different needs and program managers and directors should assess what gaps exist and take the steps to provide their students with the necessary skills and learning needed.

One Size Does Not Fit All

The Pathways program has a clearly laid out roadmap for students to progress through. However, not every student will progress at the same pace. Some students may be comfortable staying in Phase I and will need encouragement to keep learning and growing. Some students may progress quickly, and some more slowly. It is vital that program directors and managers know where each student is in their progress and look for ways that fit each student to encourage them to hit their next phase.



Pathways and the Social Development Program Model (SDPM) is a practical application of two theories for youth development and programming.

📌 Social Development Model: Simplistically states that Individuals develop bonds to groups and organizations when they 1) experience opportunities for Involvement, 2) possess the necessary skills for involvement, and 3) receive positive feedback for their involvement.

💡 Self-Determination Theory (SDT): development of intrinsically motivated behavior is integral to human development. Intrinsically motivated activities prepare youth for adulthood through tasks that develop 1) self-direction, 2) self-expression, and 3) motivated involvement. SDT also requires contexts that promote the basic needs of 1) autonomy, 2) relatedness, and 3) competence. see image below

Research Details to Practice Points in Pathways

Research Detail One:

Successful youth programs provide youth opportunities for meaningful involvement.

Practice Point for Pathways: Students need to be more than passive participants our program; they need opportunities to assume significant roles and to make important decisions. Student participants are more likely to feel engaged when they feel their opinions are valued and have a certain degree of choice (Herrera, Sipe, McClanahan, & Arbreton, 2000). Examples of meaningful involvement could include new product decisions, allowing students to have responsibilities in product and store leadership , allowing students to make decisions about program offerings, and soliciting feedback from students and then actually using it to inform program and business decisions.

Research Detail Two:

Student participants need to receive frequent, positive, and specific feedback.

Practice Point for Pathways: When students receive positive feedback about their participation from program staff it instills and communicates to them that they are important members of the program community. Specific feedback is especially effective as it provides youth insights into the exact behaviors for which they are being recognized and is therefore more likely to promote the continuation of said desired behaviors. For example, a simple “good job” is too general to reinforce behavior, whereas “I really like how you kept working at the activity and didn’t give up until you succeeded” validates and enforces the importance of perseverance and hard work exhibited by the student.

Research Detail Three

Leaders need to assure that students possess and/or develop the necessary skills to successfully participate in program activities.

Practice Point for Pathways: To experience the full benefit of participation student participants need to be able to successfully complete the program’s associated activities. While this does not mean youth need to exhibit full competence at the beginning of a program, steps should be taken to continually develop applicable skills. For example, rather than simply making the same products, leaders should consider incorporating new skill building activities as well. Specific examples could include using power tools, measuring, problem solving, design, etc. This can help less skilled youth increase their abilities as well as provide opportunities for peer mentoring between youth of different skill levels. This is particularly salient as students move into each phase of Pathways.

Research Detail Four:

Program leaders need to intentionally identify the beliefs, norms and ultimately behaviors they want to promote through their programs.

Practice Point for Pathways: While facilitating involvement, positive feedback, and skill development will increase participants sense of bonding, this bonding is only likely to lead to behavior adoption if the beliefs and norms of the program are effectively communicated. At the core of intentional programming is the identification of targeted outcomes and underlying beliefs. Once identified, these beliefs and outcomes need to be incorporated into the language and culture of the organization. For example, we are trying to help students find their place, passion, and purpose and have a Pathway for their lives after they leave our program. Example: We want to clearly communicate our beliefs about the importance and possibilities of students futures and and how everything they are learning and doing is useful in their lives outside of Pathways.

Conclusions and Implications For Practice

Intentional programming is essential in order for youth program to provide student participants with transformative experiences. This process will be be further enhanced when programs incorporates applicable theoretical frameworks in the design process. The SDM is the chosen framework Pathways is built upon as it helps us to identify the steps leaders need to undertake to facilitate a program experience that will promote bonding and adoption of targeted beliefs and behaviors. Leaders should continually review the components of the SDM and then evaluate how the execution of Pathways can more intentionally incorporate the concepts of meaningful involvement, positive feedback, and necessary skill development.


Hawkins, J. D., Catalano, R. F., & Arthur, M. W. (2002). Promoting science-based prevention in communities. Addictive Behaviors, 27(6), 951-976.

Hawkins, J. D., & Weis, J. G. (1985). The social development model: An integrated approach to delinquency prevention. The Journal of Primary Prevention, 6(2), 73-97.

Herrera, C., Sipe, C. L., McClanahan, W. S., & Arbreton, A. J. A. (2000). Relationship development in community-based and school-based programs. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.

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