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ACT Youth Network presents to New York State agencies


NYC ACT Youth Network at Youth Development Team Meeting in Albany

Since 1998, the New York State Youth Development Team (YD Team), a public-private partnership of 30 leading statewide agencies and youth-serving organizations, has been dedicated to promoting the health and well being of adolescents in our state. The YD Team has provided leadership that integrates positive youth development practices and principles into New York State services and supports intended for youth, families, schools, and communities.

The ACT for Youth Center of Excellence (COE) provides ongoing support to the YD Team, who hold meetings three times a year in Albany. Partners share cutting edge research findings, best practice information, and resources to help coordinate state and community youth development efforts.

For the past three years, the team has held an annual Youth Meeting, inviting diverse groups of young people from across the state to make presentations on issues that impact their lives. Led by COE staff Sara Birnel Henderson and Michele Luc, five members of the ACT Youth Network travelled from New York City to Albany and presented to the YD Team at their July 17th meeting. Youth Network members, who act as consultants to the COE and the NYS Department of Health (among others), reported on the projects in which they have been involved, including

  • reviewing website content to assure its youth friendliness;
  • developing and testing focus group questions on health topics;
  • and observing educators implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs to provide feedback for quality improvement.

The ACT Youth Network is available to consult on noncommercial services, products, media campaigns, and research designed for youth. Contact Sara Birnel Henderson to discuss your project.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Michele Luc    Sara Birnel Henderson    youth   

ACT teams with communities to better support young parents

Erin Graupman, District Coordinator of Student Health Services,  Rochester City School District

Erin Graupman, District Coordinator of Student Health Services, Rochester City School District

This July Pathways to Success community teams from Buffalo, the Bronx, and Rochester met for the first time on campus. They reviewed the results from needs and resources assessments of services and support available for young parents in their respective cities. Funded by the New York State Department of Health, and administered through the BCTR's ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, the Pathways to Success Initiative pairs one public school district with one community college (in Buffalo, the Bronx, and Rochester). The aim of this initiative is to create community infrastructure that will help expectant and parenting teens and young adults improve their health, education, and self-sufficiency, as well as strengthen their families.

Jane Powers, director of ACT for Youth, explains the importance of this initiative,

This project tries to improve outcomes for this population, who are prone to fall through the cracks of our service delivery systems. Often they don’t finish school and don’t get prenatal care, which can compromise their future health, occupational and economic outcomes.

To inform the initiative, ACT for Youth developed a process that engaged each community in the assessments. The community partners gathered data through a series of key informant interviews with local agencies. Then ACT for Youth staff consulted expectant and parenting youth by conducting focus groups in each community. Data from the interviews and focus groups were coded here at Cornell. ACT for Youth staff then travelled to each community to discuss findings in “data dialogue” sessions that allowed for rich and locally-based reflection and planning.

Reginald L. Cox

Reginald L. Cox

As the final step in this process, staff from each community project came together in Ithaca on July 14-15, 2014. The first day was dedicated to connecting across the communities, followed by workshops given by Jutta Dotterweich (ACT for Youth director of training and technical assistance) on collaboration, systems-level change, and sustainability. On the second day, groups focused on finding common themes, defining and prioritizing actionable steps, and a hearing a closing talk on engaging fathers from a regionally known expert, Reginald L. Cox, director of the Fatherhood Connection.

 New York communities join to help teen parents - Cornell Chronicle

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Jane Powers    Jutta Dotterweich    parenting    youth   

ACT for Youth introduces PhotoVoice to Career Explorations participants

Tags: 4-H,   ACT for Youth,   Photovoice,   youth,  

news-2014-careerex-photovoice-inpost2As part of the 4-H Career Explorations program, the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence hosted a three-day “Focus for Teens” workshop to introduce youth to a qualitative, participatory action research method called PhotoVoice. Thirteen youth participants explored the question, “How youth-friendly is Ithaca?” from the perspective of potential college students. The project was led by Mary Maley and the ACT for Youth research and evaluation team, including Amanda Breese, Christine Heib, Brian Maley, Jennifer True Parise, Amanda Purington, and Divine Sebuharara.

In an interactive, small group format, participants were introduced to social science research methods, and how research can be used to mobilize community action. They learned how to tell a story with photographs, including the elements of photography they could use to highlight their perspectives as they gathered data.

The group identified and discussed the qualities of youth-friendliness that they would look for in a college town. Then, in a hands-on field trip with digital cameras, they visited three locations in the city of Ithaca to take pictures.


Participants evaluating photos

Over 100 photos were selected by the youth for analysis, which was conducted using an iterative grounded theory approach. Three themes were identified: mobility (including accessibility and transportation), aesthetics (including both the natural and built environment), and amenities (including services for youth, jobs, entertainment, and food).

Results highlighted the presence of youth-friendly qualities in the city, including the use of color, art, and greenery in public spaces, along with available bus service and a variety of shops and restaurants. Some unfriendly qualities the youth identified included buildings, streets, and sidewalks in need of repair, and the amount of advertising for alcohol and smoking products. At the conclusion of the program, youth participants presented their results in a poster session for BCTR faculty, staff, and invited guests.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: 4-H    ACT for Youth    Photovoice    youth   

ACT for Youth at HHS Conference


Jane Powers, Jutta Dotterweich, and Amanda Purington

Jane Powers, Jutta Dotterweich, and Amanda Purington of the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence were presenters at the 2014 U.S. Health and Human Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grantee Conference in Washington, DC this June. The conference brought together federally funded prevention programs to enhance understanding of best practices, programs, and strategies, particularly on the theme of “Bridging the Gaps: Eliminating Disparities in Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Health.”

Conference participants offer evidence-based programs in their communities in order to support youth in improving sexual health (e.g., delaying sexual activity and using condoms and effective contraception when they do become sexually active). These programs are not new, but to ensure positive results funders are now strongly emphasizing fidelity to program design as well as implementation quality. Recognizing that many participants struggle to collect and use data effectively, Powers and Purington offered tools to track attendance, monitor fidelity, and assess quality, as well as strategies to help facilitators use data to improve program implementation. They also shared lessons learned in New York State’s efforts to scale up evidence-based programs.

Dotterweich and Powers focused on building organizational capacity for evidence-based programming. They introduced participants to resources intended to enhance facilitator competencies, as well as an online training on implementing evidence-based programs in adolescent sexual health that was recently developed by ACT for Youth.

Jane Powers is project director for the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, where Jutta Dotterweich is director of Training and Technical Assistance and Amanda Purington is director of Evaluation and Research. The Center of Excellence supports the New York State Department of Health in its efforts to promote adolescent sexual health.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Amanda Purington    Jane Powers    Jutta Dotterweich    pregnancy    prevention    sexual health    youth   

BCTR remembers friend and colleague Don Tobias

news-tobias2-inpostThe BCTR lost a dear friend and colleague on November 22nd when Don Tobias passed away. As executive director of Cornell University Cooperative Extension – New York City (CUCE-NYC), Tobias created and oversaw programs that implemented Cornell research to better the lives of New Yorkers in three main areas: nutrition and health; urban environment; and family and youth development.

The BCTR has particularly close connections with CUCE-NYC's family and youth development programs, including 4-H  and parenting education projects. CUCE-NYC is one of the major partners in the  ACT for Youth Center of Excellence. With Don's enthusiastic support, the Complementary Strengths Research Partnership has had a home in CUCE-NYC since 2005. In 1989 Don was one of the founders (with Jerry Ziegler) and the original PI of the HIV/AIDS Education Project, which moved into the Family Life Development Center (precursor of the BCTR) in 2001.

College of Human Ecology dean Alan Mathios notes in his remembrance in the Cornell Chronicle,

In the city that never sleeps, Don worked nonstop in his role – as a mentor, visionary, teacher, researcher, cheerleader and partner. He transformed the work of so many who knew him and guided programs that touched thousands of New Yorkers ... By helping individuals and families to eat better, live more sustainably, and support the needs of children and teens, these programs embody Cornell’s founding land-grant principles.

Cornell loses a friend, but not a partnership
- Cornell Chronicle

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: 4-H    ACT for Youth    CCE    Complementary Strengths    don tobias   

ACT focus group studies connect policy makers with youth voices

Since its inception in 2000, the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence (COE) has sought to enhance efforts to promote the health and well-being of adolescents. As an intermediary funded by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), the COE aims to connect research to practice by applying knowledge about what works in prevention and youth development in communities across the state. But the sharing of information is not a one-way street: the COE also collects wisdom and data from the field, which in turn is used to inform policy and practice.

One illustration of this process is the COE's recent youth focus group study. The COE has often been called upon by the NYSDOH to conduct focus groups on topics of interest in adolescent health, specifically so policy makers and decision makers can hear directly from youth in New York State (NYS). The focus group findings have been incorporated into funding announcements and media campaigns, and used to develop new sexual health initiatives. Recently, the COE partnered with grantees who are working in the field of teen pregnancy prevention to conduct focus groups with youth in order to understand how adolescents think about “family planning,” as well as identify barriers to their accessing reproductive health services. This study was driven by the fact that while significant numbers of adolescents are sexually active, there has been a decline in adolescent use of publicly-funded family planning services, a fact that has been observed nationally as well as in NYS. Major findings from this focus group study support those documented in national studies:

  1. teens want to prevent pregnancy, but they have misconceptions about and negative views of birth control methods; and
  2. utilization of family planning services can be improved by attending to several factors including teen perceptions of stigma, discomfort, and lack of privacy.

These findings are outlined in a recent COE publication, Youth and Family Planning: Findings from a Focus Group Study, which is part of the Research fACTs and Findings series. In addition, the COE has also presented findings to practitioners who work in the area of teen pregnancy prevention, adolescent sexual health, and reproductive health services. By connecting these results directly with those working in the field, the COE is able to reach a wide audience of practitioners, policy makers, and educators who can use the information to inform practice.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    adolescence    focus group    Research in Translation    sexual health   

Annual NY 4-H conference features cross-center connections

The Annual New York State Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Educators Conference was held October 15-17, 2013 in Lake Placid, NY. This year's theme was Go for the Gold: Make the Best Better at Work, Home and Play. Over 73 individuals who work in the area of 4-H youth development in New York state attended.

Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock

New York State 4-H Youth Development is housed in the BCTR and this event brought together researchers from projects across the center, including:

  • The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Her talk, Adolescent Wellbeing: Setting the Stage for a Well-lived Life, emphasized the importance of resilience, gratitude, empathy, openness, and integrity as keys to a joyful life. Whitlock tied these concepts in with working with adolescents, encouraging those who work with youth to be invested and engaged in order to effect positive changes in the lives of young people.
  • Stephen Hamilton, BCTR Associate Director for Youth Development, and P.I. of Cornell Youth in Society, and Angela Northern gave a workshop on Supporting 4-H Volunteer Leaders
  • Jutta Dotterweich of ACT for Youth gave a workshop, A New Youth Development Curriculum

New York State 4-H staff presented the following workshops:

  • 4-H Common Measures: What, Why and How - Nigel Gannon, State Healthy Living Program Specialist
  • 4-H Connects Kids to Nature - Nancy Schaff, State STEM Program Specialist
  • Linking Healthy Living Programs and Careers in Health Professions - Nigel Gannon
  • Citizen Science in 4-H - Nancy Schaff
  • National 4-H Science e-Academy - Nancy Schaff

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: 4-H    ACT for Youth    CCE    Janis Whitlock    Jutta Dotterweich    Nancy Schaff    Nigel Gannon    Stephen Hamilton   

ACT for Youth sponsors “Provider Day”

Across New York State, communities want to promote the health and well-being of their young people more effectively. The ACT for Youth Center of Excellence offers key support to these efforts among 76 community projects, building their capacity to offer positive youth development and adolescent sexual health programming. On September 23rd, close to 200 program providers from these New York State projects came together in Albany for “Provider Day,” a professional development opportunity sponsored by ACT for Youth.

The three provider groups represented are all funded by the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), as is the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence. Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (CAPP) and Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) projects aim to reduce adolescent pregnancy and STDs/HIV by providing evidence-based sex education and expanding opportunities for teens in their communities. Successfully Transitioning Youth to Adolescence (STYA) providers focus on pre-teens. Their charge is to prevent teen pregnancy and STDs through positive youth development approaches such as expanding developmental opportunities and promoting long-term, positive relationships with adults.

Jane Powers

Jane Powers

Provider Day participants were welcomed by John Eckenrode, BCTR director; Jane Powers, director of the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence; Dr. Guthrie S. Birkhead, Deputy Commissioner of the Office of Public Health, NYSDOH; and Kristine Mesler, Director of the Bureau of Maternal and Child Health, NYSDOH. Glynis Shea from the Konopka Institute at University of Minnesota delivered a dynamic keynote challenging the audience on how to communicate more effectively to build public support. A wide range of workshops were offered on topics from reaching immigrant parents to making better use of agency Facebook pages. Facilitated networking sessions provided project staff the opportunity to share their challenges and expertise on topics of mutual interest, such as roles for youth, and effective community outreach.

In evaluations, participants commented “Great job! I learned a lot that I can immediately apply,” and “Let’s do more of this!” Powers commented, “We were thrilled to offer this professional development day to our many youth-serving providers to build connections among those who are working to support adolescents across New York State.”

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Jane Powers    John Eckenrode   

BCTR at the Global Implementation Conference

The Global Implementation Conference (GIC) was held in Washington DC on August 19-21, 2013. Several BCTR staff attended the conference and were on the program. The GIC provided a unique forum to share the latest information about implementation science, practice, and policy that supports organizational change, system transformation, and implementation in human services and other real-world settings. Participants from diverse backgrounds and settings gathered to share ideas and research. The 2013 GIC theme was Putting Implementation into Practice: Tools for Quality and Sustainability.



Charles Izzo and Frank Kuhn from The Residential Child Care Project presented Examining the Flow of Implementation Events to Help Interpret Evaluation Results and Inform Programming at the Measures & Tools practice group.

Dotterweich and Powers

Dotterweich and Powers

Marilyn Ray, Jutta Dotterweich, and Jane Powers from ACT for Youth presented Using Quality Implementation Framework to Inform Evaluation and Quality Improvement at the Implementation Science Synthesis practice group.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    Charles Izzo    conference    Frank Kuhn    Jane Powers    Jutta Dotterweich    RCCP   

ACT Youth Network Honored by NYS Health Commissioner

Tags: ACT for Youth,   award,  

Sara Birnel-Henderson, Akeema Duff, Shaquiella Duff, Dymond Cathcart, Humberto Cruz (Director, NYSDOH AIDS Institute), Sue E. Kelly (Executive Deputy Commissioner, NYS DOH), Michele Luc, Shalonte Page Anderson, Tymell Parrish

The ACT Youth Network, sponsored by the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence, has received the New York State Department of Health Commissioner’s Award for their extraordinary efforts in raising HIV/AIDS awareness. The award was bestowed in a ceremony commemorating World AIDS Day 2012 at the Empire State Plaza in Albany on December 5th . Providing consultation to the Department of Health, ACT for Youth, the Harlem Health Promotion Center, and Cornell University graduate students, among others, Youth Network members have brought youth voice to a wide range of projects promoting adolescent health. They have given early, essential feedback on the design and messaging of media campaigns, websites, focus groups, workshops, surveys, and more. Their input has made each project more accessible and relevant to youth. BCTR congratulates the ACT Youth Network, as well as coordinators Sara Henderson, Michele Luc, and Heather Wynkoop, on this high-profile recognition of their many achievements.

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: ACT for Youth    award