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ACT for Youth awarded new contract with NY State


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

ACT for youth logoA BCTR project that helps New York youth lead more positive, healthy lives will expand its work with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).

The state awarded a new contract to the Assets Coming Together for Youth Center for Community Action (ACT for Youth), a BCTR project focused on positive youth development and adolescent health. The project will receive $1.1 million in each of the next five years to develop training and resources, provide technical assistance, and evaluate youth intervention programs.

ACT for Youth has partnered with the NYSDOH since 2000. This is the project’s fourth contract with the state.

Headshot of Jane Powers

Jane Powers

“We’re thrilled to continue working with the New York State Department of Health, supporting their efforts to improve the health and well-being of adolescents in our state,” said Jane Powers, the project director.

ACT for Youth is currently working on several community-based initiatives that focus on adolescent sexual health promotion and youth development: Comprehensive Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, Personal Responsibility Education Program, Successfully Transitioning Youth to Adolescence, and Pathways to Success. As part of the new contract, ACT for Youth will now also support prevention programs for sexually-transmitted diseases for youth. The organizations that house these programs are diverse, ranging from large, urban hospitals to small community agencies. Each program incorporates positive youth development strategies into their work with young people.

ACT for Youth is a partnership among the BCTR, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of New York City, and the Adolescent Medicine Division at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Related:

ACT for Youth: Measuring positive youth development

ACT for Youth supports sex education and positive youth development at Provider Day

Teen Outreach Program helps prevent teen pregnancy

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ACT hosts visiting scholar from Malaysia


By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

This winter, the BCTR hosted a visiting scholar from Malaysia who shared information about youth development programs in her country.

Professor Haslinda Binti Abdullah is an associate professor and the deputy dean of research and innovation at Universiti Putra Malaysi.

Abdullah spent a week in Washington, D.C. at the American Evaluator Association conference, where she gave a presentation titled “Evaluating Trajectories of Youth-Adult Partnerships in Malaysia and United States” with Jane Powers, the project director of the BCTR’s ACT for Youth Center for Community Action.

Powers and Abdullah shared findings from evaluations of youth-adult partnerships conducted in the U.S. and Malaysia. Their research from both countries demonstrated that when youth and adults learn and act together as partners, they can produce high-quality and sustained efforts that endure over time.

Professor Haslinda Binti Abdullah with ACT for Youth Network members

Professor Haslinda Binti Abdullah (in red) with ACT for Youth Network members

Next, Abdullah visited Ithaca, where she met with BCTR staff for cross-cultural dialogue about youth development programs. And finally, she visited New York City, where she met with Cornell Cooperative Extension youth development practitioners and the ACT for Youth Network, a group of youth consultants who advise the NYS Department of Health and ACT to ensure their materials, resources, and research instruments are youth-friendly.

“It was a rich visit,” Powers said. “Malaysia is a very different society compared to the U.S. It was valuable to learn about the issues that young people face in another part of the world and the types of programming offered. For example, how they handle sex education in a primarily Islamic country.”

“But what was really enlightening to our team was discovering our similarities,” Powers said. “Because despite the differences, we learned that we share more than think.”

Abdullah said that she found the visit insightful, and hopes to continue collaborating with ACT.

“I find it interesting on how technology helps in term of promoting health-related programs organized by the ACT Youth Network,” she said. “And I learned about the reality of what it means for youth in New York to be involved with youth programs such as ACT.”

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Preventing sexual violence by addressing boys


Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, and Janis Whitlock

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, and Janis Whitlock

By Sheri Hall for the BCTR

BCTR researchers are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to evaluate a program for adolescent boys that aims to prevent them from becoming future perpetrators of sexual violence. Center researchers, coming together from across existing BCTR projects, will work together on the new Sexual Violence Prevention Project.

The partnership comes through the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), which was awarded a $1.8 million from the CDC over four years to investigate programs the prevent sexual assault. State public health officials are collaborating with the BCTR to conduct the research.

The team of BCTR researchers is collecting data from 12 sites in western New York who are offering the program over the next two years. In addition, the team is collecting data from 12 control sites, which are offering different types of youth programming for boys.

“We plan to enroll over 700 boys in the study, and our first groups launched this summer,” said Mary Maley, a BCTR extension associate for research synthesis and translation. “Participants complete questionnaires right before and after the program, and again three and six months later. We’re hoping to find that the boys in the intervention groups show improved attitudes and behaviors compared to the boys in the control groups. We’re very excited to be at the implementation phase of the project.”

Last month, the team visited the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta to meet with CDC officials and other researchers across the country working on this issue for what they called a “reverse site visit.”

“This provided our team with a great opportunity to meet with a  number of CDC scientific officers and other researchers who are building the evidence base for effective sexual assault prevention programs,” said Jane Powers, senior extension associate and co-investigator. “We broadened our knowledge of the issues, learned about valuable CDC resources to support our work and expanded our network by meeting new colleagues and building partnerships.”

The program, Brothers as Allies, is based on the Council for Boys and Young Men developed by the One Circle Foundation. It enrolls boys ages 12 to 14 in small groups of 8 to 10 participants, which meet once a week with a male role model to focus on activities and discussions that define that it means to be a “real man.”  Boys in the program will learn how to step in when they observe bullying and work on developing empathy, communication, and relationship skills.

“The idea behind the program is entirely strength-based,” said Janis Whitlock, co-principal investigator and lead of the research team. “Boys are helped to build strong relationships with each other and with a positive adult role model as a means of understanding what positive relationships look and feel like. The male facilitators can then use these group bonds to encourage exploration and discussion of areas related to difficult topics, such as sexual violence.”

Many of the risk factors for sexual violence, such as hypermasculinity and endorsement of aggression, are based on attitudes and start to develop at this age through interactions with other boys and men, Whitlock said.

“This is a perfect time to be giving them a variety of models to choose from, because boys in particular face fairly narrow models of what it means to be a man,” she said.

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Researchers evaluate a program for boys to avert sexual violence


By Susan Kelley for the Cornell Chronicle

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, and Janis Whitlock

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, and Janis Whitlock

Cornell is helping to usher in new, more effective ways to prevent sexual violence.

A team from the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research (BCTR) is evaluating a curriculum for boys aged 12-14 aimed at preventing sexual violence. The program is a shift from previous approaches, which generally focused on helping people avoid becoming victims of sexual assault.

Instead, this approach aims to keep boys and young men from committing sexual violence in the first place.

“If you want to stop perpetration, this may be the best tack to take,” said Mary Maley, extension associate for research synthesis and translation. “This is an innovative approach, because we’re looking at reducing risk for perpetration, not reducing risk for becoming a victim.”

BCTR is working in partnership with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), which recently was awarded a $1 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). New York state is one of five awardees nationwide to receive a CDC grant to evaluate various programs to prevent sexual assault.

BCTR is the research arm of the NYSDOH project. The team will spend this first year refining the methodology, developing research tools and protocols, and recruiting program sites and participants. Data collection will begin in the fall of 2017.

The BCTR team will be working with a curriculum, the Council for Boys and Young Men, developed by the One Circle Foundation, which provides training and curricula that promote resiliency and healthy relationships. The basic idea is that male facilitators will set up and lead “councils” which consist of eight to 10 boys in seven to nine urban upstate sites.

Much of the content focuses on prosocial behavior. Councils will meet a few hours a week for several months, focusing on activities, dialogue and self-expression that challenge myths about what it means to be a “real man.” They’ll learn behavior that prevents violence, such as how to step in when they see bullying. They’ll also work on activities that develop empathic behavior, communication and relationship skills, and the ability to respect difference. Another seven to nine sites will serve as study controls to enable the researchers to test the efficacy of the curriculum.

“The idea is that they’re building strong relationships with each other and with a positive adult role model, so they’re actually able to model what positive relationships can be,” said Janis Whitlock, co-principal investigator and lead of the research team.

The middle school years are a prime time to help boys develop these skills, she said. This is the age at which they start to tune in to broader ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman.

Many of the risk factors for sexual violence, such as hypermasculinity and endorsement of aggression, are attitudinal and start to develop at this age through many moments of interactions with other boys and men, Whitlock said.

“This is a perfect time to be giving them a variety of models to choose from, because boys in particular face fairly narrow models of what it means to be a man,” she said.

Evaluation of this type of program comes at an opportune time, Whitlock said, as the definition of sexual assault has greatly expanded in recent years. Historically, sexual violence has meant penetration only. Now it includes unwanted touch, comments, penetration in various ways, and negative online behavior.

That’s important, because middle school boys have the potential to be involved in minor forms of sexual violence, such as unwanted touch, sexting and sharing of others’ images online, Whitlock said.

In this environment, the CDC’s vision was to evaluate the most innovative programs available, Whitlock said. “They wanted to push the envelope so we can get some traction on this issue, because it’s not getting better.”

The project continues a long and fruitful partnership between NYSDOH and BCTR, according to co-investigator Jane Powers. Together the two entities have collaborated over two decades to strengthen community support for youth using research-based programs and practices, she said.

“Results of this research will potentially improve the health and wellbeing of youth in New York state and beyond,” Powers said.

Researchers evaluate a program for boys to avert sexual violence - Cornell Chronicle

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Workshop: How to Conduct Focus Groups, Tuesday, March 14, 2017

 
how to workshops

How to Conduct Focus Groups
Jane Powers and Mandy Purington, ACT for Youth

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
12:00-2:00 PM
166 MVR Hall



Focus groups are a unique, and sometimes challenging, way to collect qualitative data. During a focus group, participants are asked about their perceptions, opinions, and attitudes in an interactive group setting. This workshop will provide an overview of planning and conducting focus groups, including:

  • defining a focus group
  • designing focus group questions
  • recruiting and preparing for participants
  • facilitation tips and
  • analyzing the data.

Jane Powers, Director, ACT for Youth
Amanda Purington, Amanda Purington, Director of Evaluation & Research, ACT for Youth

To Register:

Please contact Patty Thayer at pmt6@cornell.edu
Lunch will be served.
This workshop is open to all Cornell faculty, staff, and grad students.

event-htdrrws-event-image2Part of an interactive workshop series

Researchers are increasingly conducting studies in community settings and applying for grants that require documentation of real-world impact. Indeed, some funders now require components such as dissemination plans, stakeholder engagement, or community participation. To meet these new demands, researchers may wish to collaborate with non-academic groups and craft research questions and results that inform practice or policy. This series of interactive workshops shares the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research’s extensive experience conducting research in real-world settings and translating empirical findings into practice. Each workshop addresses a key challenge that researchers face in doing translational research and provides practical tools for overcoming obstacles to conducting effective translational research.

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Engaging Cornell students to study adolescent sexual health in the digital age


Janis Whitlock and Jane Powers

Janis Whitlock and Jane Powers

BCTR researchers Janis Whitlock (director, Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery) and Jane Powers (director, ACT for Youth) have joined forces to study how technology impacts teen sexual behavior. Their project Adolescent Sexual Health in the Digital Age explores youth and “technology-mediated sexual activity” (TMSA): how young people engage in sexually explicit activities through digital technologies, such as online pornography, sexting, and hook up apps. The work is supported by a recently-awarded Hatch grant.

As a starting point, Whitlock and Powers surveyed youth service providers, sex educators, and parents to assess their overall level of awareness and concern about TMSA, and to capture what these individuals have been observing among the youth with whom they interact.

To learn directly from young people themselves, the researchers enlisted the help of undergraduates. In collaboration with Professor Kelly Musick and students in her Research Design, Practice and Policy class (PAM 3120) Whitlock and Powers launched a semester-long project to develop a survey that could be used to explore TMSA among college students. Class members first participated in focus groups led by members of the ACT for Youth evaluation team, research assistants in the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery lab, and Callie Silver (HD ’16), a Cooperative Extension intern and core research assistant for the project. The focus groups prompted students to discuss how they think their peers navigate sex in this new digital landscape. The students then learned how to code the focus group transcripts and generate themes to develop a college survey. Once the survey was developed, students conducted a pilot study, generating approximately 400 responses. Finally, the class presented their findings as well as their recommendations for revisions to the survey.

In this mutually rewarding project, students learned about research methods through a real- world project, and in turn their work provided BCTR researchers with essential information that will be incorporated into an NIH proposal to further examine this understudied, but important, topic.

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Supporting Young Families: The Role of Social Network Analysis


Young parents, especially teen parents, must depend on a network of support and multiple services to raise their children, achieve educational and financial goals, and keep their families healthy. Resources for expectant and parenting teens and young adults may come from many directions: supportive housing, child care, and employment services, to name a few – but often there is no clearly identifiable system that coordinates these efforts.

Pathways to Success, an initiative of the New York State Department of Health, aims to better connect parenting teens and young adults to key resources in Buffalo, Rochester, and the Bronx. The initiative funds one community college and one public school district in each community, with technical assistance provided by the BCTR’s ACT for Youth Center of Excellence. Specifically, ACT staff members Amanda Purington, Dora Welker, Divine Sebuharara, Mary Maley, Christy Heib, Jane Powers, and Heather Wynkoop-Beach have all played important roles on various parts of this initiative.

While Pathways grantees had a good sense of available services, coordinating these services to best serve youth in need was a daunting challenge. ACT staff recognized that social network analysis could be used in these communities to both create a distinct picture of existing networks and identify ways to strengthen collaborations.

Social network analysis is a set of methods for examining social structures and relationships within a network. Using the PARTNER social network analysis tool (created at the University of Colorado Denver), ACT staff worked with grantees to build customized online surveys and analyzed results in order to better understand collaborative activity within grantee networks and possibilities for new connections.

To define their networks, all the Pathways grantees were asked to compile a list of organizations with whom they already have relationships, or would like to be connected. ACT staff then developed PARTNER-based surveys tailored to each community. Next grantees distributed the surveys to their network lists, encouraging participation. Finally, ACT staff quantified the results, creating a visual representation of how the different organizations are -- or are not – connected.

ACT maps visual

These example maps show a city's grantees' (yellow dots) network with all collaborations (top) and then those at the "networking" and "coalition" levels of engagement.

Using the survey results, ACT staff created two types of network maps for the Pathways to Success initiative. The first map illustrates the level of collaboration. “Networking” is the most basic level: members of the network are aware of one another and may have informal relationships, but do not make any major decisions together. Networking is followed on the continuum by cooperation, coordination, and coalition, with collaboration at the highest level – when all major decisions are made collectively. The second map depicts frequency of contact among organizations. “Higher” and “more frequent” are not always ideal or feasible. The maps help spur discussion of what level of collaboration and frequency of contact would best serve young families in each community.

Three network indicators are also included in the analysis: 1) density -- the number of network ties relative to the total number of possible ties – which demonstrates the overall cohesiveness of the collaborative, 2) degree centralization, which refers to how well connected the members of the network are collectively, and 3) the level of trust among the members as a whole. For example, one community network had an overall trust score of 78%, indicating that a majority of responding organizations reported high levels of mutual trust. In addition to these whole network indicators, many other metrics can also be examined for each of the organizations in the network.

To discuss the findings, ACT for Youth held “data dialogue” sessions with grantees in each community. The network maps clarified where communication and collaboration are strong, and where there are opportunities to help the community better serve expectant and parenting young people. Some grantees were surprised that while their community was rich in resources, those resources were not being evenly accessed. Grantees also recognized a lack of coordination among certain organizations, resulting in some members of the network “doing the same job many times over.” Other grantees realized the need to focus on strengthening and building community systems to include organizations that may not have completed the survey, but should be at the table. For example, one group was surprised when they noticed that their county health department and a home visiting program had not responded to the survey, prompting the grantees to think about strengthening connections to include these valuable resources in future conversations.

Following these initial sessions, the grantees are holding meetings with their networks of community organizations. These meetings mirror the first data dialogue session, but allow an opening for the larger community to discuss how they can strengthen relationships in the entire network, bring others to the table, decrease duplication of services, and take steps to bridge gaps.

For the Pathways to Success initiative, this first implementation of the survey will serve as a baseline for the communities. ACT for Youth will help grantees administer the survey annually, documenting change over time, including stronger relationships among the vital organizations within each community.

Linking research to the practice of youth development


0089_12_082.jpg

Stephen Hamilton

A special issue of the journal Applied Developmental Science explores the application of a truly translational research process to "youth development." The issue is edited by Stephen Hamilton, BCTR associate director for youth development.

From the abstract for the issue:

The articles in this special issue address some of the challenges of strengthening the links between research and the practice of youth development and identify some approaches that have worked well. Youth development emerged from practice rather than from theory or research. Research that is most useful in the practice of youth development honors that primacy both by exploring questions that are important in practice and by engaging practitioners as partners, not merely as consumers.

...

A consistent theme of this issue is that the conventional portrayal of research-practice linkage as uni-directional is both inaccurate and inadequate. Different kinds of research inform different dimensions of practice; practice can and should guide research. Efforts to aid practitioners in accessing, understanding, and using research findings should be accompanied by efforts to aid researchers in posing questions about topics that matter to practitioners, conducting research that comprehends the complexity in which those topics are embedded, honoring practitioner wisdom, and enlarging the circle of those who conduct research.

The issue includes the following articles (BCTR staff in bold):

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Linking Research to the Practice of Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 57-59, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1030016

Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Translational Research and Youth Development, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 60-73, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.968279

Reed W. Larson, Kathrin C. Walker, Natalie Rusk & Lisa B. Diaz (2015) Understanding Youth Development from the Practitioner's Point of View: A Call for Research on Effective Practice, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 74-86, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.972558

Mary Agnes Hamilton & Stephen F. Hamilton (2015) Seeking Social Inventions to Improve the Transition to Adulthood, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 87-107, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.975227

Jane Powers, Mary Maley, Amanda Purington, Karen Schantz & Jutta Dotterweich (2015) Implementing Evidence-Based Programs: Lessons Learned From the Field, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 108-116, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2015.1020155

Nicole Yohalem & Vivian Tseng (2015) Commentary: Moving From Practice to Research, and Back, Applied Developmental Science, 19:2, 117-120, DOI: 10.1080/10888691.2014.983033

Linking research to the practice of youth development - Applied Developmental Science

(0) Comments.  |   Tags: Amanda Purington    article    Jane Powers    Jutta Dotterweich    Karen Schantz    Mary Agnes Hamilton    Mary Maley    publication    Stephen Hamilton    youth    youth development   

“30 Lessons for Loving” highlighted in the Miami Herald, includes BCTR family tie-in


news-legacy-levines-inpostBob and Edith Levine, along with hundreds of other long-married couples, contributed their stories and advice to the recent book by BCTR director Karl Pillemer, 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and MarriageThey recently told the story of how they met and married to the Miami Herald, in an article about the book. Here Edith recounts some of the difficulties of their early years together, and Bob's attitude towards the relatively small problems of domestic life:

 “It wasn’t all a bowl of roses. I remember when things were tough and I would say, ‘The kids had the measles, mumps and chicken pox, the roof was leaking, the basement was flooded, we couldn’t pay the bills,’” Edith said. “But Bob would say, ‘No one’s shooting at you, take a shower.’ That was his mantra.”

Bob, now 89, learned not to sweat the small stuff after being wounded in World War II. He took part in the Normandy invasion in 1944 as a member of the 90th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. He was injured during the invasion, strafed by shrapnel, leaving a broken leg and a crushed right foot.

Edith also notes that Bob's upbeat attitude has been a counterbalance to her worrying,

“That has been what made my life easier. I’m a worrier and he is so positive all the time,” Edith said. “I was very blessed.”

Jane Powers

Jane Powers

The full article contains more from the couple, including the moving story of how Bob's life was saved by a German doctor during WWII. In an additional connection to the BCTR, Bob and Edith Levine are the parents of ACT for Youth director Jane Powers.

Lifetime of loving - what long-married couples can teach us about relationships - Miami Herald

(1) Comment.  |   Tags: Cornell Legacy Project    Jane Powers    Karl Pillemer    media mention   

ACT for Youth at American Evaluation Association conference


Powers, Purington, and Maley

Powers, Purington, and Maley

This October, staff from the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence participated in the annual conference for the American Evaluation Association held in Denver, CO. For the conference, Jane Powers, Mandy Purington, and Mary Maley organized a panel on the theme of building capacity to strengthen youth programming through the use of evaluation findings. The ACT team described how the Center of Excellence has been supporting the implementation of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs. Through case examples, they illustrated how implementation data are summarized and made accessible to program staff, and how these data help staff reflect on evaluation findings and identify ways to improve fidelity and quality. Colleagues from the University of Wisconsin joined the panel to present on their work in Madison with community program staff, educators, and youth.

In a demonstration session, the ACT team described the three-phase needs and resources assessment process they developed to identify gaps in local supports for expectant and parenting young people. Their approach includes a community partner brainstorm phase, a key informant interview process, and youth focus groups with expectant and parenting young people. They described how the information gained from this process led to action planning for each of the participating communities.

Finally, Jane Powers served as a discussant on a panel organized by Abe Wandersman addressing the issue of organizational readiness for implementing innovations. The three papers in this session focused on how to assess, build, and evaluate organizational readiness.

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