STUDENT FACILITATORS AND COLLABORATIVE TEAMS FOR PARTICIPATION: Training Students as Facilitators in the Youth Empowerment Strategies (YES!) Project
Continued high rates of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use (ATOD) in youth, coupled with risky behaviors that can lead to HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy and other problematic outcomes (Futterman, Chabon, & Hoffman, 2000; Resnick et al., 1997; Sanders-Phillips, 1996; Whaley, 1999; Wilson, Battistich, Syme, & Boyce, 2002), have led practitioners and researchers to look for new and innovative ways of studying and addressing these complex problems (Kirby, 2001; Sanders-Phillips, 1996; Wallerstein, SanchezMerki, & Dow, 2005; Whaley, 1999). Increasingly, these new approaches have involved academic-community partnerships in which local youth become an integral part of the research and intervention team (Blaine et al., 1997; Cheatham & Shen, 2003; Tencati, Kole, Feigher, Winkleby, & Altman, 2002). Although most often in such partnerships, the academic or professional partners determine the issues to be investigated and addressed (Reason, 1994; Stoecker, 1999), a promising new approach is gaining increasing popularity, and involves creating the conditions in which youth become empowered to study and act on issues that they themselves identify (Cheatham & Shen, 2003; Wallerstein, 2002; Wallerstein, Larson-Bright,
Adams, & Rael, 2000). An example of such an approach is Youth Empowerment Strategies (YES!), a CDC-funded Community Based Participatory Prevention Research (CBPR) project designed to promote problem-solving skills, social action and civic participation among underserved elementary school youth in West Contra Costa County (WCCC), California (Grant No. R06/CCR921439-01). Although the outcome goals of this three year project include decreasing rates of alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) use and other risky behaviors, the program does not focus directly on such problems, but rather involves a strengths-based approach (Saleeby, 1997). YES! builds on the existing capacities of youth in these low income neighborhoods, and helps them develop the tools needed to identify, study and address issues of shared concern on the school, neighborhood and larger community levels. This paper will describe and critically analyze the recruitment and training of local high school students and their graduate student counterparts for their roles as the facilitators in a unique after school program. Implications and recommendations for other academic-community partnerships involving youth-focused CBPR projects will be discussed.