Abstract: Building Civic Leadership Skills through a Neighborhood Afterschool Program (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12484 Building Civic Leadership Skills through a Neighborhood Afterschool Program

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 3:30 PM
Seacliff D (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Nicole Nicotera, PhD , University of Denver, Assistant Professor, Denver, CO
Dawn Matera, MSW , University of Denver, Research Assistant, Denver, CO
Background and Purpose: Afterschool programs typically emphasize intervention for problems such as drug abuse and/or strategies to increase academic performance. Typically this growth is fostered through drug resistance curricula and tutoring to promote study skills, reading, and homework completion. However, neighborhood-based afterschool programs, where children are situated in their neighborhoods of residence among their peers, are conducive to building civic leadership and neighborhood action. This study presents the results of integrating strategies to develop civic leadership within a neighborhood-based afterschool program. We examine the development of civic leadership in children who reside in urban, public housing neighborhoods and attend the local afterschool program (N=77, mean age 9.11yrs.; 53.2% male, 71.4% Latino, 11.7% African American, 9.1% White, 7.8% Asian).

Methods: Children participated in small group activities for 8 weeks during which they learned to document neighborhood conditions through writing and photography. They applied these observations to assess the strengths and challenges of their neighborhoods. The children employed a variation of photovoice to engage in democratic processes to identify the most important neighborhood issues. They planned neighborhood action days related to the problems they identified and collaborated with community resources, such as the urban gardens and graffiti trucks to make their neighborhood action days successful. The children developed fliers and canvassed the neighborhood to invite residents to the action days. The children's experiences of the entire process were assessed through a civic leadership survey and focus groups that were held prior to and at the completion of the programming. Both quantitative and quantitative techniques were employed for a mixed method analysis.

Results: The mixed methods results demonstrate that participants developed skills for: advocacy, collaboration within and across generations, and the capacity to work across differences for mutually rewarding outcomes. The children developed an awareness regarding the complexities of their neighborhoods and of working with peers and adults. The themes indicate a reduction in hopelessness and the development of efficacy among the young participants. This is evident in the 5 themes that emerged from the qualitative analysis: beneficial places, beneficial relationships, mutuality, peers-cooperation, and peers-conflict. Quantitative results corroborate the qualitative findings.

Conclusion and Implications: This study suggests that afterschool programs can be extended to successfully include activities that develop civic leadership in young people. Collaboration with neighborhood-based afterschool programs to include civic leadership development will promote youth as assets in their neighborhoods as opposed to the common view of youth as problems. Future studies that examine the development of resistance skills and academic outcomes that result from youth participation in civic leadership projects are warranted.