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What is the QYD™ Project?

The QYD Project™ is a national youth engagement and empowerment project, in which youth and adult residents work together to improve their community's support of youth through meaningful actions. QYD stands for Quality Youth Development, which we define as as “substantive, measurable, and sustainable community actions that support, engage, inspire, and empower youth”. The QYD Project™ is designed to encourage and celebrate tangible efforts to promote the health and development of youth. These tangible efforts are modeled by our 10 QYD Benchmarks, which are inspired by the Search Institute's evidence-based 40 Developmental Assets™.


Once community members form a QYD Steering Committee and meet 7 of these 10 benchmarks, they achieve a one-star QYD Community™ Certification. This certification can be shared widely and proudly by the community as a quality standard that will attract businesses, employees, and residents. The Steering Committee is then motivated to sustain current achievements as well as meet new benchmarks to not only retain their certification, but to achieve two, three, or even four-star status.


What results from the process is lasting community change — not only from the direct impact of the tangible actions taken towards youth support, but from the community awareness risen and the youth empowerment sparked.

The Quality Youth Development™ Project is made possible by funding from the VT Department of Health, VT Agency of Education, Vermont Youth Development Corps, the Youth in Transition Program, the Mergens Family Foundation, and the Hoehl Family Foundation. It has been evaluated by the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont with positive findings.

How It Started

Essex CHIPS has been serving Vermont youth since 1986. It has served as a model for robust youth engagement – particularly with its organizational structure, which encourages youth 13-18 years old to serve on the Board of Directors. The QYD Project™ represents CHIPS’ commitment to broaden and deepen the positive impact communities can have on youth. With this goal in mind, CHIPS has drawn on the Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets™ model to design a community engagement process that establishes substantive - but not onerous - benchmarks to be achieved by a neighborhood/village/town/city/region in order to support and empower youth. Communities undergoing this process can obtain the Quality Youth Development (QYD) Community™ credential, which demonstrates that a community is actively promoting youth engagement and youth empowerment.

After designing and launching the QYD Project™, Essex CHIPS separated itself from the management of the project in order to ensure an objective and unbiased credentialing process for communities throughout Vermont and beyond. A new nonprofit entity, called Quality Youth Development Inc. (aka QYD Inc.,) was formed and has contracted with CHIPS since 2019 to manage project operations, including the promotion of the project and coordination of the process for interested communities. Today, Essex CHIPS continues to support the project through resource development efforts and technical assistance to applicants.


The QYD Credentialing Committee (QCC), the certification authority within QYD Inc., is comprised of nonprofit, education, and community professionals, as well as older teens from all over the United States. The QCC reviews and acts upon QYD Community™ applications.

Interested? Find out how to get started:

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