Positive Peer Culture (PPC) — Building Strengths in Youth

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PPC is a peer-helping model designed to improve social competence and cultivate strengths in youth. Care and concern for others is the defining element of PPC. —California Evidence-Based Clearing House

PPC provides advanced research-based strategies for creating positive climates in schools, juvenile justice, residential treatment, group homes, and community settings. Youth who are not bonded to adults often gravitate to other disconnected peers and engage in high-risk behavior. Punishment only fuels conflict with authority and builds a subculture of bullying and negative peer influence. PPC is specifically designed to build respectful relationships and enlist young people in prosocial helping roles. Co-authored by Larry Brendtro and Beate Kreisle, this course draws on decades of research and practice with troubled and traumatized youth. Key goals for this course are to develop inspired staff teams, engage youth as peer helpers, and ensure program fidelity. Assessment instruments are provided for both staff and youth to identify Circle of Courage Strengths and Supports in young persons and to evaluate progress in creating Cultures of Respect where all young persons can grow and thrive.

PPC Course Learning Objectives

  • 1. Identify Indigenous and Western knowledge about building egalitarian cultures of respect.
  • 2. Review research on group dynamics and peer influence in autocratic or democratic settings.
  • 3. Use Circle of Courage principles and strategies for teaching youth:
  •     Trust: Restoring Belonging
  •     Talent: Resolving Problems
  •     Power: Sharing Responsibility
  •     Purpose: Serving Others
  • 4. Develop cohesive, participatory staff teams that focus on needs of youth.
  • 5. Explore strategies for conducting formal and informal peer-helping groups.
  • 6. Maintain program quality with indices of positive and problematic groups.


Larry K. Brendtro, PhD, has a doctorate from the University of Michigan specializing in children and youth with behavioral challenges. He has broad experience in youth work, education, and psychology, and served 14 years as President of Starr Commonwealth operating residential treatment and alternative schools in Michigan and Ohio. Dr. Brendtro was a member of the U.S. Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention during the administrations of Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama. He has been a professor at the University of Illinois, The Ohio State University, and Augustana University. Larry with his wife, Janna, as research editor collaborated in publishing over 200 articles and 18 books on building strengths in youth. He and Lakota psychologist Martin Brokenleg developed the Circle of Courage model, linking Indigenous wisdom on raising children in cultures of respect with research on resilience and youth development. Dr. Brendtro has trained youth professionals worldwide through the nonprofit organization Reclaiming Youth at Risk.

Robert Foltz, PsyD

Robert Foltz, PsyD, co-trainer with Larry Brendtro in RAP and PPC, is an associate professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in the Clinical Doctoral Program. He also has a private practice in the Chicago area, working primarily with youth experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties. Dr. Foltz is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of experience with troubled children and youth. His professional roles include both administrative and clinical responsibilities in the delivery of care to troubled youth in residential and community settings. Dr. Foltz has published extensively about the benefits and drawbacks of psychotropic medication with

PPC Course Guidebook (PDF)

Respectful Alliances PPC Text (PDF)

PPC - Presentation Handout (PDF)

Miscellaneous Information

Video links are embedded in the RAP and PPC PowerPoints used by Trainers.

Videos in PowerPoints are “Fair Use” for educational purposes.

Most of the video clips are publicly available on YouTube. Photographic images are in the public domain. Video clips are used without copyright under fair use standards for educational purposes.  In 2010, we were told by Starr’s IP attorney “fair use” is not permission but a legitimate defense. In the highly unlikely case we are challenged, we would simply discontinue use of the clip. Even if Starr were concerned about possible risk exposure, note that the e-learning program is a Reclaiming Youth at Risk training with IP and copyright held by Resilience Resources.

PDF files are provided for the Respectful Alliances RAP and PPC texts.

Works Cited

Research citations are included in the RAP and PPC text bibliographies.

Evaluation of Training

Current RYAR evaluation forms are for in-person training. Starr may add an e-learning evaluation.

Other Recommended Resources:

Bath, H., & Seita, J. (2018).  The Three Pillars of Transforming Care: Trauma and Resilience in the Other 23 Hours. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: UW Faculty of Education Publication

Brendtro, L., Brokenleg, M., & Van Bockern, S. (2019). Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Futures of Promise, Third Edition. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree.

Brendtro, L., & Mitchell, M. (2015). Deep Brain Learning: Evidence-based Essentials in Education, Treatment, and Youth Development. Albion, MI: Starr Commonwealth.

(Available from starr.org and reclaimingyouth.org)