making it work

RY helped me focus on school better and taught me to set goals for myself in order to complete high school.


RY Student, Santa Barbara, CA

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1. What is the difference between RY and CAST?

We get this question all the time: from agencies considering one of our programs; from sites using one program and thinking of adding the other; and from grant writers needing to distinguish between our two programs.

So, what’s the difference?

Here are the basics:

Reconnecting Youth (RY) is a semester-long CLASS, implemented in the school, as part of the regular schedule, and is offered for credit and a grade. RY was designed for students at risk for school dropout, and we have an algorithm/formula using referrals and student records to determine who “qualifies”. RY class size should not exceed 10-12 students.

Coping and Support Training (CAST) is a 12-session GROUP, which can be implemented in a variety of locations: schools, mental health agencies, faith-based organizations, juvenile detention centers, private practice, etc. CAST groups should have 6-8 youth max. CAST can be offered as

  • a universal prevention program for all youth in a setting, grade or grouping;
  • a selective prevention program to youth in at-risk groups (such as 8th graders transitioning to high school, Alaska Native/Native American/First Nation youth, GLBQ populations, or youth showing signs of risk for school dropout); OR
  • an indicated prevention program for high risk individuals identified through screening (e.g., for suicide risk – this is what we did in our studies).

Perhaps more important is what RY and CAST share in common:

  • Youth should be invited, not assigned to the program.
  • Diversity in a class/group in terms of risk factors, gender, age, experience and strengths are beneficial to the success of all of the individuals in the program.
  • Life skills are taught, modeled, practiced and applied to real life situations in and outside of the class/group context.
  • The emphasis is on developing a positive peer culture and adult support system, both of which bolster personal growth.
  • Both the of programs’ goals are to increase school achievement, drug use control and mood management (by decreasing risk factors and increasing protective factors, such as personal control, problem-solving coping, and support resources).
  • Anyone can teach either RY or CAST as long as they are passionate about working with at-risk youth and are willing to deliver the program as designed. The only caveat is that, for RY, when credits are being offered, you need a “teacher of record” to assign grades for the class. We’ve had teachers, administrators, school nurses, counselors, outside mental health agency staff, and well-loved security guards and probation officers teach both RY and CAST!
  • Training is HIGHLY recommended, but not required for purchase of the curricula. These are both evidence-based programs with over 15 years of research to support their outcomes, when delivered with fidelity (as designed). Training will assure your implementation readiness.
  • We train on site, year round, on demand. We also have annual trainings here in Seattle. You may choose to host your own training or join another site’s training, when openings are available. Please view our Training Calendar for the latest schedule. Or contact us for more information about training, including costs, requirements of a host site, and waiting list options.
  • Both programs change lives!! See SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices for a summary of our outcomes for RY and CAST.

2. What makes RY and CAST work (keys to success)?

We think the Reconnecting Youth and CAST Programs work for a lot of reasons! But if pushed to pick the top four reasons why these evidence-based programs work, we’d choose these:

  1. The Leader! If your RY or CAST Teacher/Facilitator is a caring, engaged and supportive adult who is passionate about youth and program fidelity, you should have a successful program.
  2. Positive Peer Culture! The youth invited to be in RY and CAST have a job and agree to it; they are all there to support one another, regardless of their differences or their diverse personal goals. Each youth brings strengths to share with the other group members.
  3. Skills Training! RY and CAST aren’t rap groups. And they’re not counseling groups. They are life skills training courses. Youth learn and practice skills each session that they apply daily to their real life situations. These life skills benefit the RY and CAST youth well into their adult lives.
  4. Developer-sponsored Training! Our trainings are engaging, interactive and practice-focused. But don’t just take our word for it. Read what our training participants have said about their training experience.

3. Will RY or CAST work in block schedules?

YES! Both programs are designed for 50-55 minute sessions. But RY and CAST work in different ways.

Let’s look at RY first. Since RY is a school class, it needs to follow the bell schedule, whatever that may be. Sometimes schools have as little as 45-minute periods, sometimes as much as 75-90. If an RY class is scheduled for 3rd period, which meets on a block schedule (e.g., Mon, Wed, Fri for 80 minutes), you can combine two RY lessons into each class session. For those of you who are familiar with the Anatomy of an RY Lesson, you would start at the beginning (Check In) and teach all the way through one lesson; then start the next lesson at Big Ideas and teach through that lesson. It is wise to allow the students a “brain break” at some point, perhaps midway through.

What about CAST? If you are implementing CAST in a school (which is only one of many appropriate settings), you simply keep the students together for the length of the CAST session. If you complete the session within 55 minutes, then you can send them back to class for the remainder of the period! Some schools prefer you to pull CAST students out of class for the latter part of a period, which allows them to be present for some of the lesson and get their assignments before leaving for their CAST group.

4. Can I offer CAST in a setting besides school?

YES! Besides school settings, CAST can be implemented in a mental health agency, faith-based organization, juvenile detention center, private practice, inpatient setting or community agency.

5. What is an RY or CAST Coordinator?

The Coordinator assures implementation fidelity. A Coordinator supports the Teacher/Facilitator so that the program is delivered as designed, helping the group members achieve their best outcomes.

The RY or CAST Coordinator must have in-depth knowledge of the program; often this is someone who has facilitated the program themselves with success. Additionally, they must possess the skills, knowledge and authority to support and sustain the necessary program infrastructure; and they must have the time, ability and willingness to provide oversight and supervision of the program.

Forming partnerships within the school and wider community, participating in the development of a Crisis Response Plan and overseeing youth selection, screening and assessment are all important tasks of the Coordinator.

Coordinator Training is highly recommended, and available through RY Inc. For a quick overview of any of our training offerings, review the Training section of our website.