About Challenge Success

Learn more about our mission, vision, and equity commitment.



Challenge Success partners with school communities to elevate student voice and implement research-based, equity-centered strategies that improve student well-being, belonging, and engagement.


Our vision is that educational systems value each student for their unique identities, assets, and individual definitions of success and effectively prepare them for the variety of opportunities and challenges they will encounter in school and beyond.


Challenge Success continuously examines and revises our work and seeks to disrupt patterns of inequity to further well-being, belonging, and engagement for each student, especially those for whom identity, culture, or socioeconomic status has resulted in barriers to access and success. We believe:

Change starts with self, including active self-reflection to notice our own implicit biases and recognize how our lived experiences influence our perspectives and decision-making.

All students, families, and communities have assets to build on and sustain.

Centering design on those most marginalized by the current system benefits all students.

Approaches to change must be systemic, context-based, and targeted at policies and practices.


Our Guiding Principles

We know from our research that well-being, belonging, and engagement are intrinsically connected and are critical for student success.

We recognize that schools have the potential to play a major role in youth mental health by providing a positive, safe, and affirming environment for students. 

We seek transformational, systems-level change in schools.

We are committed to continuing our efforts to center equity in our work.

We seek a broader impact on the PK-12 education system beyond our direct work with schools.

We value partnerships and collaborating with like-minded organizations.

Our Key Strengths

Students at the Center

We center the student experience in the change process and engage students as co-designers.

Community Partnership

We partner with all stakeholder groups to redefine student success and focus on well-being, belonging, and engagement with learning.

Data & Research:

Our work is grounded in data and research-based practices to support continuous learning and improvement.


In 2001, Denise Pope, Ph.D., published her first book, “Doing School,” which highlighted the alarming rates of disengagement among high school students. Out of that research, she launched the SOS Project (Stressed-Out Students) at Stanford University. 

Several years later, in response to a significant increase in anxiety, depression, and lack of engagement among high school and college students in the United States, experts in child and adolescent well-being convened at Stanford to envision a coordinated approach to helping schools and families develop alternative models of success to align with the research on healthy child and adolescent development.

In response to this meeting, Denise joined forces with Madeline Levine, Ph.D., and Jim Lobdell, M.A., to found Challenge Success. Utilizing the resources of a prominent advisory board of interdisciplinary experts, the co-founders created a research-based organization focused on partnering with schools and families to create healthier, more authentic paths to success for adolescents. 

In 2011, Challenge Success became a standalone 501(c)3, but still maintains an affiliation with Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. Since then, the organization has become a trusted “voice of reason” for educators, families, and students nationwide. Learn more about how we partner with schools, families, and students to improve well-being, engagement, and belonging for all students.

Today, Challenge Success is led by a wonderful Staff and Board of Directors and enjoys support from its Student Advisory Committee and Advisory Council. 

Learn more about how we partner with schools, parents, and students to create a more balanced and engaging learning experience for students.