Tilly's Life Center is Changing Lives
It has been my privilege over the last few years to work with Tilly’s Life Center (TLC), a youth-focused, 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable foundation focused on empowering teens with a positive mindset and enabling them to effectively cope with crisis, adversity and tough decisions. The TLC mission is to inspire youth to reach their full potential as productive, kind, happy, and responsible individuals.
Even when in supportive family and school environments, teens can struggle to cope with the many challenges they face – depression, anxiety, suicide, drug and alcohol use, bullying, stress, body image, and violence. The Tilly’s Life Center (TLC) “I Am Me” program was developed to empower teens by teaching life skills that build confidence, inspire compassion, and encourage them to pursue their dreams.Using experiential learning, journal writing, open discussions, and activities, TLC classes promote self-discovery and cover relevant topics in a safe and caring environment.
I worked with TLC to conduct a mixed-methods program evaluation study, and the results are very promising. In the first phase of the research, we met with 16 students (grades 10-12) in a public alternative high school and conducted a qualitative evaluation of their experience in the program. In the second phase, we recruited 54 students (grades 9-10) in a public high school to participate in either the TLC program or a no-intervention comparison group. We used quantitative methods to evaluate improvements over four time points in the school year, and qualitative methods at the end of the school year.
Students in Phase II completed questionnaires at four times during the year – before the intervention started and then about every 10 weeks until the final evaluation at the end of the school year. When compared to the comparison group whose scores remained relatively stable, TLC students demonstrated improvements in self-esteem and attention and a reduction in perceived stress.
In their own words, students described the impact of the program in focus groups that were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed for consensus among different groups and students. Our summary of what they learned included the following important life lessons:
· Believe in Yourself
“Um… like the whole thing about like believing yourself really made a difference in my life because I always didn’t believe in myself before this class, and I guess that made a difference.”
· Don’t Give Up
“I feel like back then I would just be like oh I can’t do it so I’m not gonna bother trying. Now it’s just more like, no, I am gonna do it, and I will do it, and if it doesn’t come out the way that I want it to, then I can learn from and kinda just progress from there, yeah.”
· Effective Ways to Communicate and Solve Problems
“I mean, I feel like it helped me a lot by helping me find who I am and just showing me not to be afraid of the world so…take a risk.”
“I’m more motivated now!”
· Learning to Let Things Go
“Paying attention to just the important things.”
· Speak Up and Stand Up
“I learned to have a voice.”
· Changing My Perception of Things in My Life
“I kinda learned you can’t control what happens around you so it’s more of like, it’s more important to know how to react towards it.”
“So it’s more of just like if you react calmly and like you don’t stress over it or start thinking negatively then it won’t really impact you in like a bad way so it’s just more of like relaxing and like thinking like okay is this something worth stressing over like being mad at?”
· TLC is More than a Class – It’s a Family
“Um… it’s not like the normal class it’s like somewhere you can actually express your feelings and how you feel during like within that week or if something’s up. It’s an open class and everyone just like here understands and listens to you so we’re most like a family not a class.”
We are excited to be taking this research to the next level and will be working with TLC to summarize the program and outcomes in a new research paper.