Positive Deviance

Hogares Sanos

This summer we implemented a community health project in Burlington, based on the Positive Deviance Model. The model centers around “positive deviants,” or members of a community who have knowledge and experience regarding raising a healthy family that other members of the community may not have. The goal of this project is to locate these positive deviants and help facilitate the spread of that knowledge. We worked with the Latino population, which is disproportionately affected by health outcomes such as obesity and diabetes, and for whom health education is especially relevant. We worked specifically with mothers, who are frequently the primary caregivers and meal providers for the families in these communities, to promote the exchange of healthy practices including:

  • good nutritional choices and meal planning
  • creating a food budget and shopping economically for healthy foods
  • recognizing when a child’s symptoms require medical attention
  • encouraging exercise and movement in children
  • gaining access to the healthcare system in Alamance County
  • further topics suggested by participants

To accomplish this, we held sessions once a week over an 8-week period on a variety of health topics. In these sessions we shared practical knowledge and facts about the topic and then developed realistic courses of action with participants based on their experiences living in Burlington. We worked with participants not just to improve the health of their own families, but also to share existing and acquired knowledge with those around them. The ultimate goal of these trainings was to promote an exchange of knowledge that will have a tangible and positive impact on the health of the participants as well other families in the greater Burlington community.

Working with us to implement this model was our Positive Deviance Coordinator, Courtney Latta. She has implemented this model in Haiti in partnership with Children’s Nutrition Program and is familiar with facilitating the sharing of nutrition and health knowledge within a community. Along with her practical experience, she is currently studying at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and has a strong understanding of the healthcare knowledge that underlies good practices. During the sessions she served both as a teacher and a facilitator, encouraging participants to share knowledge within the group.

But we're not done, either. Now, during the school year, we are continuing the sessions, and broadening the focus to include navigating the education system, storytelling with children and preparing a child for college, not mention cooking and exercise activities.


“Gradúate!” is a tutoring program started through the nonprofit, The North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals aimed at providing assistance for Hispanic teenagers. This nonprofit is based in Cary, NC and assists teenagers in four high schools – two of which are in Alamance County: Cummings High School and Graham High School. We, as Periclean Scholars, help to tutor high school students at these two schools. We also help with life skills, guide them in their search for post-graduation options and act as mentors for them.


Hillcrest Elementary

During the end of our first year as Periclean Scholars, we developed a fulfilling partnership with Hillcrest Elementary School. The education group of our class thought it was very important to create a relationship close to home. As a group, we wanted to connect with our community and bring the culture and lifestyle of Chiapas Mexico into the Burlington area. We are very fortunate to work with a diverse cultural school such as HIllcrest Elementary. We hope to learn from the teachers and students about their culture and together, embrace ethnicity. Our Periclean Scholars class will work along-side the 5th graders at Hillcrest Elementary. In North Carolina, the fifth grade Social Studies curriculum focuses on Mexico and Latin culture as well as Central America, the United States, and Canada. Our class hopes to bring a taste of Mayan culture into walls the fifth grade classrooms. We are extremely fortunate to have such supportive members of the Hillcrest faculty and staff. Together we will fight stereotypes and come to an understanding of different cultures.

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The Positive Deviance Initiative

The Positive Deviance Initiative contains information about the model as well as useful resources for groups trying to take on a PD project.

The National Society of Hispanic Professionals

The NCSHP is a Cary based organization that works to promote the education of Hispanic students of all scholastic levels.

Schools For Chiapas

Schools for Chiapas is an organization committed to helping the autonomous communities of Chiapas. While not directly involved with our class, they partnered with the Periclean Scholars Class of 2008 to join with one such community in painting a school building with beautiful murals.