Home Youth empowerment After-school program promoting youth empowerment, black culture helped reduce violence

After-school program promoting youth empowerment, black culture helped reduce violence

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An after-school program specifically designed to address racial and economic disparities affecting black youth and empower them to be a positive change in their community has long-lasting effects on the behviour.

The analysis looked at five years of data and compared the outcomes of students participating in regular after-school programs to those who participated in the Youth Empowerment Solutions program, which focuses on implementing a curriculum that recognizes structural racism. , historical and contemporary, said the lead author. Elyse Thulin, postdoctoral researcher at UM’s School of Public Health.

“Our study shows that this program can have lasting effects on positive youth development, both by increasing positive social interaction and decreasing negative behaviors one year after completing the program,” Thulin said.

For the study, youth were recruited between 2012 and 2016 from after-school programs at participating schools in Flint County and Genesee, with a total of 33 program cohorts from 15 schools.

A total of 418 middle school students participated in the program. Of the original sample, 45% were black, 18% biracial, 34% white, and 3% reported other races. Students responded to surveys at the start of the program, at the end of the program, 6 months after and 12 months after.

Students enrolled in Youth Empowerment Solutions, or YES, completed the program four days a week for approximately 15 weeks. The program included developing youth leadership skills, increasing the ability to work with peers, developing critical thinking, and planning and implementing community change projects.

“These findings demonstrate that young people can be involved in the solution to violence prevention and not just at the center of our prevention efforts,” said Marc Zimmerman, Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Public Health at UM and principal investigator of the study.

“It turns the script on youth violence prevention and, importantly, provides an evidence base for practitioners that developing leadership and supporting young people to become agents of change in their communities can help build safer communities and schools.
Notably, Thulin said, the program included sessions focused on African-American culture and pride, including learning about black history, African ancestry and African-American contributions to American life.

One year after participating in the program, the researchers assessed the young people’s aggressive behavior and prosocial behavior. Among the key findings, the researchers found that participation in YES:

  • Increased feelings of prosocial behavior in black and white youth by increasing white and black youth empowerment
  • Direct reduction in aggression at 1-year follow-up, but less effective in women
  • Was effective in decreasing behaviors in young black people and especially young black men, but not in young white people

“Given the limited uptake of evidence-based programs implemented in community settings, our study demonstrates that YES can be successfully implemented in community settings, that it can have lasting effects on positive youth empowerment and that it can have lasting effects on positive youth development,” said Thulin.

“Implementing a curriculum that recognizes historical and contemporary structural racism while engaging youth at the individual, interpersonal, and community level through leadership development and empowerment can be especially effective for African American youth.”

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