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Covenant House New Jersey has developed the Dove Learning Center utilizing a blended-learning approach to strengthen resilience skills – so vital to maintaining a positive living environment – in the homeless youth we serve.

Forging strong, supportive relationships with our youth has been central to CHNJ’s approach since its inception. We have learned through our research that certain characteristics have been shown to promote resilience in youth. Such characteristics include cognitive skills; self-awareness; emotional regulation; delay of gratification; confidence; and connection with faith or spirituality.

Housing stability is the foundation upon which we hope our youth can gain their footing. We have identified five content areas for the DLC—Education; Employment; Financial Literacy; Social Navigation; and Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness—the mastery of which we believe will improve every young person’s housing resilience.


We at CHNJ believe that everyone can learn but everyone learns differently. At the DLC we have combined core blended learning modalities (traditional classroom and technology) with methods addressing the non-traditional learners. Forever striving to do more, and do it better, we are hopeful that our innovative new approach to resilience-building will have a lasting impact on our youth.


CHNJ has always fostered a welcoming and encouraging atmosphere. Choice, relationship, and challenge are the fundamental principles in our program. We give our youth the choice because they are more motivated when they choose to engage. Within the context of a helping relationship, we build trust and challenge our young people to reach their identified goals. e c, Understanding that a caring relationship with an adult is the most important factor to strengthen resilience.

Content Areas

The five content areas and their objectives are:

1) Education:

Support youth to achieve their own educational goals, beginning with an emphasis on attaining basic cognitive skills and credentials.


2) Employment:

Help youth obtain an immediate income and advise them to advance in their vocational goals


3) Financial Literacy

Teach youth financial literacy skills needed to obtain and maintain apartments and live independently, including shopping, saving, opening bank accounts, paying bills, using credit cards, and managing debt.


4) Social Navigation:

Strengthen communication and conflict resolution skills needed in professional interactions and other formal relationships (ie. landlord-tenant), through improved self-awareness and emotional regulation.


5) Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness:

Provide opportunities to exercise, improve eating habits, learn mindfulness and meditation skills, connect with spirituality, and contribute to the community by giving back to others in need.


The Pilot

To better understand and help our young people, CHNJ utilizes a mix of screening tools to understand the level of trauma each young person has experienced. One such tool identifies the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) a young person has had before age 18. ACEs are traumatic events including all types of abuse and neglect as well as parental mental illness, substance use, divorce, incarceration, and domestic violence.

Research has shown that people who have an ACE score of 40% are 8 times more likely to have learning and behavioral difficulties, and that non-traditional education methodologies (focusing on mindset and motivation) are particularly impactful to children who have experienced trauma.

For this reason, Covenant House New Jersey ran a pilot of our Dove Learning Center to see if we could improve outcomes for our young people.


The DLC pilot was markedly well-received by our youth participants. Our youth were happy with the learning experience, with the DLC pilot achieving an average satisfaction rating of 7.4 and 8.8 out of 10 in Newark and Atlantic City, respectively. They worked hard in over three-fourths of sessions and were engaged in over 90% of sessions that they attended.

Attesting to the DLC’s impact, there was a strong correlation between greater attendance and engagement in sessions and greater gains in knowledge. Our youth improved their knowledge of important financial literacy concepts by 18% on average, and by almost 50% for high attenders.

In the pilot alone, we were able to increase resilience skills. Those who learned the most were our youth who reported the highest levels of trauma.


Soon, we will be sharing the results of additional analysis on the impact of the Dove Learning Center. So stay tuned.

Next Steps

The Dove Learning Center has the potential to transform the lives of New Jersey’s homeless youth to a degree and in a manner as of yet unprecedented at Covenant House.

With continued funding, we can continue to expand this initiative, helping our young people to build resilience.


If you have questions regarding the Dove Learning Center please contact our Coordinator of the Dove Learning Centers:

Alison Iannarone, Associate Director of the Dove Learning Center (DLC)


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