A vital youth asset is education, which benefits minority youth in many ways to positively affect their future. In fact, all Youth Empowerment Program grantees are required to address academic performance through tutorials, mentorship by undergraduates, summer programs, and other academic enrichment programs. Research has shown that academic achievement is positively correlated with healthy behaviors (see Youth Assets in the Resiliency section). Because academic achievement is viewed as such an important youth asset, academic data from YEP students will be considered separately here. A uniform data set was collected from YEP grantees. Seven YEP grantees reported pre-YEP grade point averages (GPA) with subsequent comparison GPAs after one year of programming. Results are shown in Figure 3-8. GPAs showed a statistically significant increase of .36 a GPA unit (p<.05). GPA data from YEP grantees at CSU San Marcos, CUNY–Medgar Evers College, Columbus State Community College, Marquette University, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Tennessee State University, and Wichita State University were used for pre-post comparisons. Promotion rates to the next academic grade from seven YEP grantees nationwide were compared to promotion rates for a comparison group locally matched by age and race. Figure 3-9 shows the effect of YEP programming on grade promotion.
Promotion rates were 17% higher in YEP students than the average promotion rate within the local comparison groups. YEP institutions that provided data to these averages include CSU Long Beach, CUNY–Medgar Evers College, Columbus State Community College, Marquette University, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, and Tennessee State University.
Finally, high school graduation rates are viewed as a major benchmark for minority youth empowerment, ultimately leading to college or employment. Seven YEP grantees work with high school-aged minority students, some of whom have reached their senior year. The YEP graduation rate was compared to a comparison graduation rate for similar non-YEP students in the same school or school district, matched for race and ethnicity (Figure 3-9). The YEP graduation rate exceeded the comparison group rate by 40%. Unemployment rates negatively correlate with educational attainment. Therefore, according to the Bureau of Labor’s statistics, YEP high school graduates have a 50% reduction of their risk of unemployment.89 YEP grantees at CSU San Marcos, Chicago State University, Marquette University, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Stone Child College, University of Pennsylvania, and the University of Utah contributed data for this analysis.
All YEP grantees employ an asset model, where role models, tutors, advisors, and group leaders target the development of youth assets to facilitate resiliency and develop protective factors in minority youth. Several studies have shown that the presence of youth assets is highly correlated with healthy behaviors, and the lack of them correlates with risky ones.-58 The natural history of asset development is that youth assets tend to decline from grades 6-8, and show signs of recovery by grade 12. All YEP grantees strive to increase youth assets. However, because assets normally decline, asset levels that do not decrease (see Figure 1-6) represent a strong positive effect on personal assets. Seven YEPs, including Chicago State University, Kentucky State University, Marquette University, Tennessee State University, Towson University, CSU Long Beach, and the University of Utah, have measured assets through various survey tools and reported asset-related data with a pre-post comparison. Of these seven YEP grantees that have reported asset data, none have reported the normal decline in youth assets over the first two years of the YEP. In other words, all seven YEPs have shown assets that have either remained the same or increased during the first two years of programming. At least one asset at each of the seven reporting programs increased to a statistically significant level above baseline measurements after two years of YEP programming (p<.05). Unfortunately, asset survey tools and asset questions vary across the Youth Empowerment Program, so aggregate data are not possible to average across YEP grantees. Instead four programs will be featured that provided asset data.
The Towson PALS (Partners in Academic and Life Success) Program includes an intensive summer program for 30 Black, non-Hispanic youth, ages 11-14, from the Cherry Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Within Cherry Hill, 97% of the population is Black, non-Hispanic, and 60% of homes are headed by single females. The high school drop out rate is 9%, and the health status is of great concern. In particular, disparities in obesity, diabetes, asthma, violence, and substance abuse are persistent in Cherry Hill youth.
The 2011 PALS summer program was housed on the campus of Towson University, where PALS students used university facilities such as the swimming pool, wellness center, gyms, climbing wall, library, planetarium, classrooms, union, and computer labs. Through the Students Achieve Goals through Education (SAGE) program, Towson students spoke to PALS students and shared stories. PALS students learned about values and achievement from college students, many of whom come from similar backgrounds as PALS students. The summer camp met for five weeks, from 8:30AM-3PM. PALS incorporated Towson students and staff into camp activities to provide an enriched experience. Camp counselors from both campus and the community maintained a 4:1 camper/staff ratio or less in order to give individualized support and feedback.
PALS used the Campers Growth Index tool during summer 2011 to assess asset changes over the duration of the camp from baseline measurements taken pre-camp. Four asset categories were assessed: 1) Positive values/decision making; 2) Positive identity; 3) Insecurity; and 4) Peer relationships. Questions were measured on a four-point scale, with four as the best rating. In pre-post comparisons, these assets all improved dramatically after the PALS summer camp at a significance level of p< .05 (Figure 3-10). The intensive nature of the PALS summer program, with 6.5 hours of programming per day, was likely a factor in developing these assets (read the PALS story).
Marquette’s YES (Youth Empowered to Succeed) Program uses an asset model which is assessed by the Developmental Asset Profile (DAP) developed by the Search Institute. The assets in the DAP are positive experiences and qualities identified as being essential to healthy development in adolescence. The 40 assets are viewed as vital influences in the developmental growth of young people., Further, they are powerfully correlated to a range of outcomes, such as academic achievement, leadership, and well-being. Conversely, low levels of assets are correlated with negative behaviors and outcomes, including low academic achievement, behavior problems, as well as violence and other negative risk behaviors, such as alcohol, tobacco, illicit drug use, and risky sexual activity.
Fifty-eight questions in the DAP are grouped to generate 20 internal and 20 external assets. External assets impact youth including experiences, relationships, and encouragement from peers, parents, teachers, and the community. Internal assets reflect personal development including positive identity, values, social competencies, and commitment to learning. In the YES program the DAP is administered to all students enrolled in Bruce Guadalupe Community School every year. The unique feature of the Marquette data set is that the YES asset data is statistically compared to students in the same school, matched for age and ethnicity.
After one year of programming, the DAP scores from YES students showed statistically significant differences (p< .05) above school-matched peers for Empowerment and Constructive Use of Time, both internal assets (see Figure 3-11). The composite score for the Context Area of Community was approaching statistical significance (p<.10).
Strong Empowerment scores suggest the YES students feel safe and valued by others. This asset is typically associated with low risk for committing violence, while high scores in Constructive Use of Time are associated with thriving and low risk for alcohol, tobacco, and other drug related problems. Finally, the YES students scored high in the Context Area of Community. High scores in this context indicate the YES students feel supported, safe, and engaged in their community. In no asset category did the age- and ethnicity-matched control group score higher than the YES cohort. The early evidence in most other asset categories suggests some divergence of YES from the control group, but they have not reached statistical significance by the end of the second year of the grant.
Though early in the YES program, YES students showed significantly higher scores in assets associated with Empowerment, Constructive Use of Time, and Community. This information has been used to focus or alter the individualized student development plan to continue personal growth during the remaining year of programming. (View the YES video).
Latinas Adelante focuses on 30 Latina teen mothers, ages 12-17, (see pp. 42-44 for more). The Utah summer program contains academic enrichment and team building, while the program during the academic year includes daily life skills training and case management. Mentorship by Latina professionals is key to the program. While the program focuses heavily on reproductive health, improvement in personal assets and other health behaviors are impressive.
A retrospective study was performed thinking that pre-program surveys may be flawed under the hypothesis that students would be less forthcoming due to initial mistrust of the program staff. Students were asked to give responses looking back to before the program started, and also give current responses to provide a retrospective comparison.
The asset variables of problem solving, cultural pride, self-efficacy, family communication, school bonding, personal development, wellness/nutrition, injury prevention, and self-perception profile were assessed. The comparison pre versus post-program shows that Latinas Adelante asset variables all increased with statistical significance (p< .02). (Read the Latinas Adelante story).
Project MENTOR, hosted by Chicago State University, aims to reduce high-risk behaviors among participating youth, to strengthen protective factors, to develop sustainable basic life skills which will reduce risky behaviors, and to encourage healthier lifestyle choices. The program’s participants attend Hyde Park Academy High School (HPAHS), a Chicago Public School, located in the Woodlawn neighborhood of Chicago, IL. Within HPAHS, Black, non-Hispanic students make up 99.6% of the population, and 92.8% are considered low-income students. The Woodlawn community faces enormous challenges: high rates of school drop-out, poverty, unemployment, obesity, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, gang activity, and violence.
Specific interventions of Project Mentor include comprehensive case management, life skills, one-on-one mentoring from college students, health-promotion activities, academic tutoring and career exploration, and exposure to post-secondary education. Students participate in an intensive summer program that contains a curriculum on violence prevention, sexual health, role of media, and empowerment in learning. Among youth whose life circumstances have required more intensive support, a case management approach is implemented. A fitness boot camp is offered in conjunction with healthy nutritional classes provided by the program. Youth have exposure to opportunities like college visits and retreats away from the home environment. One-on-one mentoring is an integral part of the program. Project Mentor data were assessed from a youth survey with questions representative of goals focused on academics and health.
Chicago State University’s data showed a statistically significant increase in communication (p< .05), and marginally significant increases in four other asset-related variables, including conflict resolution, cooperation, problem solving, and leadership (p< .10).