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Promoting Life Skills in Middle School Youth
J. Kurzynske, K. Jones, W. Stivers, K. Ashurst
Department of Human Environmental Sciences
Community youth have high rates of alcohol and drug use, teen pregnancy, poverty, and obesity. These youth have low rates of high school graduation, self esteem, youth leadership, and rewards for volunteer service. The purpose of this project is to increase the number of life skills and developmental assets in participating youth.
2011 Project Description
Program implementation during the fourth year of the grant focused on continuing to train existing and new core youth in the target counties to further develop the six primary life skills and then partner with the core youth to develop, sustain and expand programs and activities for the secondary audiences of other middle schoolers, younger youth, and the community.
The county teams and SCP evaluator conducted needs assessments and process evaluation of the program development, implementation, and outcomes to check progress toward desired short and long term goals. The CYFAR Site Coordinators serve on or develop community coalitions or school teams that have similar goals.
During the past grant year, the site coordinators and county agents continued to meet with community groups and collaborated with teachers, parents, core youth, and other stakeholders to establish community buy-in for and to integrate the program into the school and community. During the fourth year of the grant, nearly every program that has been planned or implemented has had involvement of community collaborators and/or volunteers.
Desktop and laptop computers purchased for the county grant sites continued to be used. Both desktop computers are connected to the Internet for ongoing access. In addition, printers, digital cameras, microphones, flash drives, camcorders, Wii game consoles and games, GPS units, computer software, and other technology items have been purchased for the grant sites for technology integration. These technology resources are now fully integrated into youth-led programming both inside and outside the school and community.
Examples of programs or activities that have been implemented by core youth as leaders in the school include radio and photography clubs; Wii programs in a disabled classroom and during winter school assemblies at Simons Middle School in Fleming County; a youth-led talent show in Lawrence County utilizing portable sound systems, computers, and other technology; and creation of poster, bulletin boards, flyers, banners, and displays for use in school programs.
Examples of core youth-led programs in the community include Wii physical activity programs for nursing home residents and at military family camps; Geocaching programs for community and state-wide programs and trainings; and computer-based grid layout of community flower and vegetable gardens.
The state CYFAR team provides ongoing assistance to the counties to plan for sustainability via a monthly newsletter that contains primary and secondary outcomes from recent CYFAR programs, relevant funding opportunities, exemplary quotes from program participants and collaborators, and more. This increases visibility for the CYFAR program, serving as an instrument for community buy-in and sustainability. This newsletter is distributed to CYFAR team members across the state (current and previous grant sites), administrators, specialists, collaborators, CYFAR core youth, school officials, legislators, and other stakeholders.
Result: 96 core youth gain an awareness and understanding of six critical life skills.
Evaluation type: Youth Leadership Assessment Survey. The survey is conducted at the time of entry into CYFAR program as a core youth member and again at the end of the school year with core youth. Aggregation of pre- and post-data Q5:
Findings: Upon their introduction to the CYFAR program, nearly 75% of the core youth indicated that this was their first time to participate in a project that involved youth serving as leaders in their school and community. Results from a paired t-test revealed that the core youth believe they are providing more advice on how students can make a difference in their community (2.72 pre-survey; 3.27 post-survey).
Result: Increase in community collaborations among local organizations and formation of partnerships on issues/ programs pertaining to youth development. Aggregation of data from monthly reports that came from observations and informal surveys of core youth. Since the start of the grant, the number of collaborators with the Fleming County program has increased from six to eighteen. The number of collaborators with the Lawrence County program has increased from eleven to twenty one. Results from a paired t-test revealed that the core youth were taking more initiative in encouraging their parents and other adults to get involved with community affairs (2.63 pre-survey; 3.18 post-survey).
Result: Opportunities for youth to engage in program planning and evaluation processes with staff and adult volunteers. Aggregation of results from informal interviews with the 96 core youth members to determine whether they feel they are being offered substantial opportunities to engage in program planning and evaluation processes. Now that the program is fully implemented and four groups of core, high-context youth have received training, opportunities for the youth to engage in program planning and evaluation with staff and adult volunteers are occurring on a weekly basis. Results from a paired t-test revealed that the core youth had given more ideas for community service projects after being involved with the CYFAR project six months or more (2.6 pre-survey; 2.9 post-survey).
Result: Core youth increase the number of life skills (planning/organizing; community service/ volunteerism; communication; leadership; decision making; self-responsibility) and developmental assets. Site coordinators have reported a 100% increase in the 96 core youth demonstrating awareness and knowledge of the various life skills.
Result: Increase in the application of the six critical life skills. Aggregation of summary data from observations and interviews of 50 core youth show that core youth in both counties have begun to apply the critical life skills by implementing new programs and projects to teach the life skills to peers and younger youth. The CYFAR site coordinators also reported that 100% of the core youth (both current and previous) are applying their new found skills by getting involved in community service and additional school organizations or activities.