Methods: Starting in May 2018, 11 youth ages 12-16 from Westinghouse 6-12 Academy, a public secondary school in Homewood, were invited to participate on the YRAB. Board meetings occur once a week at Pitt’s Homewood Community Engagement Center, and are facilitated by PACS researchers. At board meetings, members 1) learn about essential elements of research, such as ethics, measurement, sampling, and participant recruitment; 2) advise the larger Pitt research team on their ongoing community-based research efforts; and 3) receive leadership training in governing board participation. Meetings were audio recorded, and the members interviewed each other about their experiences of being on the board. All audio recordings were transcribed and analyzed. Research skill acquisition is measured through project-based demonstrations.
Results: To date board members have learned the generation of research questions, how to name and brand studies, the fundamentals of research ethics, the importance of measurement in research, core aspects of geo-spatial based study, aspects of psychometric validation and software modifications, and examining and interpreted data from a pilot study. Board members also collaborate in creating presentations about their work. Interviews suggest that board members feel as if they are benefiting from their experience, and that they believe they are helping their community through their work. Moreover, for the larger SPIN study, the board’s feedback has led to the addition of measures that are more contextually relevant, to more appealing project naming and messaging, more appropriate approaches to survey administration, important modifications to the incentive structure, and enhancements to our recruitment strategy.
Conclusions: Alongside research components of the Justice Scholars, the activities of the YRAB demonstrate the potential impact of engaging youth in research projects designed to understand their own lives and community contexts. These experiences also demonstrate how research knowledge and skills can enhance youth’s sense of power. The process of creating and maintaining the board has been a reciprocal learning experience for both the youth and the PACS researchers alike, as university faculty learn to craft their projects in ways that are more ecologically valid and culturally relevant.