Expand Interests is a young person’s experience with an adult who supports them to try new things, broaden their horizons, learn about other people’s cultures and perspectives, and explore their own identities.

Expanding interests involves exposing young people to new ideas, experiences, and places.


Expanding a young person’s interests and possibilities has been shown to increase school engagement and high school graduation rates, promote healthy behaviors, decrease risky behaviors and increase overall satisfaction with life (Search Institute, 2020). Young people with expanded interests understand multiple points of view, develop a greater sense of contribution and have strong positive identity (Benson, P.L., 2006; Scales, P.C., et al., 2011).


Young people are dynamic and full of promise, with many different pathways to success. Every year Hello Insight mines our growing dataset of nearly 20,000 young people, participating in approximately 400 programs nation-wide, so that we can continue to learn what works for each and every young person.

Hello Insight has found that Expand Interests works in concert with Promoting Peer Bonds and Engaging Authentically to drive SEL growth. It is especially important for girls across the age range (e.g., 9 to 11 years of age). Expanding Interests is also particularly effective to boost growth in SEL for emerging young people in this age range.

Download the Reflection Guide


Eight Ideas for Expanding Possibilities

Search Institute
This short article provides eight tips that can be integrated quickly and easily into any program model.

Guiding Questions:

  • What opportunities can I provide to help young people explore their interests?
  • How can I introduce them to new people and experiences?
  • How can I help young people step out of their comfort zone and try new things?

Peter Benson: Sparks - How Youth Thrive

This 20-minute TED talk is about the importance of teaching young people how to identify their “sparks”—the ability to identify passions and interests and make them a reality. We like this video because Dr. Peter Benson provides an impassioned argument about why all people need to develop the skills necessary to tap into their excitement and passion.

Guiding Questions:

  • How can I support young people to explore their Sparks?
  • How can I help young people identify Spark Champions or people to support them on their journey?

Encouraging Your Child’s Strengths and Interests

Victoria State Government
This newsletter talks about how young people express and explore their identities through interest exploration. It provides terrific tips for parents, teachers and youth workers about helping young people explore their strengths and interests.

Guiding Questions:

  • When can I set aside time for my group to explore their interests?
  • Which of my interests should I share with my group?
  • How can I follow young people’s lead without taking over?