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.