By Valerie Futch, Ph.D.
Futch is a postdoctoral fellow with Youth-Nex, studying adolescent identity development, youth-adult relationships in out-of-school programs, and emerging adulthood. She is the recent recipient of the emerging scholar award for the Out-of-School-Time Special Interest Group (OST SIG) at the 2013 American Educational Research Association AERA conference held in San Francisco.
For the past 18 months I’ve had the opportunity to work with an amazing group of researchers to conduct a program evaluation of the Music Resource Center (MRC) in Charlottesville, as well as develop a way for them to sustainably collect data in the future. This project, which brought together four high-school MRC members, four undergraduate U.Va. researchers, two staff members and two U.Va. faculty, was funded by the Jefferson Public Citizens (JPC) program at U.Va. As this work winds down, we celebrate the release of the U.Va. students’ peer-reviewed article in the JPC journal as well as their second-place finish in JPC’s recent presentation competition, which awarded $250 to the MRC for continuation of the work.
We began the groundwork for this project last spring semester (2012), when we all started volunteering in various ways at the MRC to learn about the organization and its culture. In the summer, we had the chance to attend a participatory methods training institute in New York (see blog post). This project built on a method known as youth participatory evaluation (YPE), which argues that youth, as primary users of youth programs, should be central in leading evaluation efforts. Our volunteering, observation, and training were central to our ability to dive in with the work at the start of the fall semester.
Our four high school co-researchers, Bobby, Shelby, Chris, and James, contributed a variety of perspectives and ideas to the project. They completed CITI ethics training, received methods training, and helped design the survey and focus group questions. Bobby is continuing his work this Spring and Summer on a video project that will blend songs and interviews to understand the process that musicians at the MRC use to develop their art.
Our preliminary findings suggest that the MRC serves a very important role in the Charlottesville/Albemarle community. Nearly 40% of MRC members report that they do not attend other after-school programs, suggesting that the MRC fills a critical need for their after-school time. Moreover, many members receive important social support in the form of positive relationships with peers and mentoring relationships with staff. We are continuing our analysis work this month and look forward to providing the MRC with a final report in June (2013).
The whole team would like to thank the MRC for inviting us to collaborate with them on this project and for supporting our diverse team throughout the process. The JPC program provided funding as well as structure for the undergraduate researchers and an opportunity for important methodological training. In addition, Youth-Nex and the Public Science Project supported this research. We welcome any questions related to the research process and look forward to future community-based collaborations with youth in Charlottesville.
Related articles and publications:
Youth-Nex Team Garners Award in JPC Competition;
Youth-Nex JPC Team travels to NYC Research Institute;
JPC Journal Article – Let the music play: Participatory research and evaluation with the Music Resource Center
Listen to audio of the YN team’s presentation given before the competition at the Youth-Nex Works In Progress meeting.