This post is the 3rd publication in a YPAR series, which aims to explain participatory research, youth-led measurement and evaluation approaches, and strategies for youth-adult collaborations in YPAR.
By: Mykei & Angel, 11th graders
- Previous posts in the YPAR Series explained what participatory research processes are, and why youth should be engaged in research.
- This post showcases two high school students who are engaged in YPAR, and currently designing research projects.
- Mykei and Angel talk about what they learned in YPAR and how it has helped them.
Starting in 2021, Lugo-McGinness Academy (LMA) and Youth-Nex’s Youth Action Lab (YAL) partnered to introduce students to youth participatory action research (YPAR). YPAR is a research approach that engages young people in identifying problems relevant to their own lives, conducting research to understand the nature of their problems, and using findings to advocate for change.
LMA classroom teachers and Youth Action Lab team members co-facilitate YPAR projects to support student leadership and uplift student voices in a school setting. The current YAL facilitators, Dr. Jessica Forrester (a postdoctoral researcher) and Olivia Burke (a grad student), sat down with two students from LMA to ask about their experiences in YPAR.
Question: Tell me about the current YPAR project you’re working on.
- Mykei: I am working on creating interview questions on what sparks adults’ career interests and why they went into that field of work. I just want to see what people say, to be honest, like what their different experiences are. So far, I have interviewed my history teacher, Mr. K. He told me that he went to law school but realized teaching was his calling. I am excited to interview Mr. K’s father-in-law who is a nurse.
- Angel: The overall question of my project is “Do high school students have enough resources for jobs, and internships after completing high school?”. My current project started off as research looking into career-based classes. It then led to looking into internships for high school students, in- and out-of-school. I have now expanded my project into a focus group for 11th and 12th graders; asking for their opinions on what kind of internships they wish they had and if they feel that high school successfully set them up for success in their career choice. The focus group will be recorded and sent out to businesses that are open to interns so that they may use the data to edit intern interview questions for high school students. During the focus group, we will give the students information on businesses open to internships.
Question: What have you learned while working with Youth Action Lab and YPAR?
- Mykei: What sparks people’s interests. I also learned how to word questions to get a better response from the people I interviewed. I also learned a lot about the research process, like what to look for on the internet, especially when I was searching for different people in the community to interview.
Question: In what ways has your YPAR project been helpful for you and your future?
- Angel: It has benefited my mentality. I now feel a need to strongly take initiative towards my future, while using the skills my project has taught me; such as reaching out when help is needed, looking into resources in my community, and looking closer at the people around me who could possibly bestow more knowledge upon me.
Question: What do you want to do after high school?
- Mykei: I want to become a traveling nurse. They make a lot of money and it seems really fun. My aunt, grandma, and mom were all nurses. They all loved it. My grandma was a nurse for 40 years. I take care of my mom and little brother, so I am used to taking care of people.
- Angel: After high school, I will continue my nursing program until it is time for me to head off to college. While in college I plan on majoring in Chemistry or Biology while doing nursing on the side so that I still have an income. Hopefully studying abroad at some point, and after many years of school, achieve my dreams of becoming an anesthesiologist.
Stay tuned for more from the YPAR series, including tips and strategies for using YPAR in various settings.
If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.
Author Bio: Mykei is an eleventh-grade student at Lugo-McGinness Academy and is joining the YPAR team for the second year in a row. In addition to YPAR, Mykei works part-time at a local business and has caretaking responsibilities for his younger sibling. Mykei’s education research interests are rooted in his commitment to education. In particular, he wants to increase the variety of class options for LMA students, such as advanced placement, career, and technical opportunities.
Author Bio: Angel is an eleventh-grade student and one of the YPAR team’s newest members. Angel is interested in transforming school classes to focus on students’ strengths in order to build their confidence. In addition to making a difference in educational spaces, Angel wants to shine light on business opportunities for high schoolers because of her own entrepreneurial spirit.