Youth Empowerment Solutions is a 16-week evidence-based after school curriculum that has undergone pilot testing, evaluation, and revision based on participant feedback during a four-year developmental grant from the Centers for Disease Control , and was recently tested in a randomized controlled trial funded by the National Institutes of Health. Analysis of the results of this study are underway.
YES for Peaceful Communities (Pilot 2004-2008)
The YES curriculum was designed to prepare adolescents to prevent violence through community change. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control, it was developed as an after-school program that was implemented with middle school students in Flint, Michigan from 2004 through 2008. The program was carried out once a year for three years. We recruited approximately 60 7th and 8th graders for each of three years from one Flint, MI public middle school (another school in a matched neighborhood area served as the comparison site). Youth participated in a 16-week curriculum, meeting two times per week. Their community-improvement projects included murals, community gardens, neighborhood clean-ups, and a calendar illustrating neighborhood assets. YES aimed to increase community engagement and cohesion through inter-generational partnerships by engaging neighborhood volunteers to assist the youth in completing their projects.
The YES pilot study included both process and outcome evaluation. Process evaluation included observations and ratings of curriculum implementation, brief satisfaction questionnaires completed by the participants, and interviews with youth and staff. This information was used to improve the curriculum and insure program fidelity .
The primary outcome assessments in the YES pilot study focused on neighborhood-level change. During the course of the YES project, YES communities showed visible improvements (e.g., increases in occupied properties, decreases in number of boarded windows). These findings highlight the community benefits of the YES program and the promise that it shows to positively influence youth at the individual level as well.
Self-reported outcomes for YES program participants suggest the program’s potential to empower youth and reduce their exposure to and involvement in violent behavior. This analysis compared the end-of-program (posttest) outcomes for 40 YES participants from one middle school with the survey responses of 550 other students attending the same middle school and with 489 middle school students attending a different, but demographically similar middle school in the same school district (Flint, MI). The outcomes explored in this pilot study along with reliability indicators (Cronbach alpha) were:
- Neighborhood victimization (thefts, threats, insults; 1-4 scale; alpha = .67), (3 items);
- Conflict resolution (talking it out, talking with friends, seek parental advice, seek teacher advice, consider other points of view; 1-4 scale; alpha = .75), (5 items);
- Conflict avoidance (ignore situation, moderate anger; 1-4 scale; r = .34), (2 items);
- Leadership (group leadership, organizing groups, others follow ideas; 1-4 scale; alpha=.73),(3 items)
- Daily screen time (watching TV, playing video games; 1-7 scale; r = .21). (3 items)
The analyses indicate that the YES participants were less likely to become victims of a crime in their neighborhoods. The YES participants also reported learning more about avoiding and resolving conflicts than nonparticipants. A small (non-significant) trend also suggests that YES participants learned more group leadership skills than nonparticipants. The YES participants also reported less time watching TV or using computers than nonparticipants.
Genesee County After School Study (2010-2016)
The NIH–funded Youth Empowerment Solutions for Positive Youth Development study examined the effects of YES compared with standard afterschool care in eight middle schools in Genesee County, Michigan. The study concluded in 2016 and the results of the study were published in Health Education and Behavior.
Our team found that participation in the YES curriculum improved youth’s psychological empowerment. This, in turn, was associated with increased prosocial outcomes. Prosocial outcomes included: readiness to help others, academic effort, and responsible decision making, and less aggressive and delinquent behavior.
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Zimmerman, M. A., Eisman, A. B., Reischl, T. M., Morrel-Samuels, S., Stoddard, S., Miller, A. L., … Rupp, L. (2017). Youth Empowerment Solutions: Evaluation of an After-School Program to Engage Middle School Students in Community Change. Health Education & Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1177/1090198117710491