239633 Keeping youth engaged: A qualitative study of factors that promote/deter active participation in urban after-school programs

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sara V. Birnel Henderson , College of Human Ecology, Cornell University, New York, NY
Jennifer Sarah Tiffany, PhD , Director, HIV/AIDS Education Project, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
John J. Eckenrode, PhD , Director, Family Life Development Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
Rebecca Gallager , Project Reach Youth, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Brooklyn, NY
Daniel Silber-Baker , Project Reach Youth, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Brooklyn, NY
Eden Connelly , Project Reach Youth, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Brooklyn, NY
Jodie-Ann Geddes , Project Reach Youth, Lutheran Family Health Centers, Brooklyn, NY
Background. Community-based after-school programs in New York City provide a safe place for many young people during out-of-school hours. NYC youth experience a wide range of health disparities and challenges. Active engagement in youth programs may help promote healthy development in general and adolescent sexual health in particular. Promising HIV prevention strategies increasingly build upon participatory and empowerment approaches to health promotion and on positive youth development practices. In this qualitative study, youth and program staff involved in after-school programs described program characteristics that enhance engagement and promote youth participation. Methods. We conducted 62 interviews with staff (N=18; age range 21-45; 50% African-American, 22% Hispanic, 22% White, 6% Asian) and youth participants (N=44; age range 15-18; 75% African-American, 23% Hispanic; 2% Asian) from eight NYC after-school programs. After interviews were completed we conducted focus groups to confirm and clarify findings from the interviews. Transcripts of interviews and focus groups were coded to identify practices reported by youth and staff to promote active engagement. Results. Youth and staff alike identified factors that keep young people engaged in after-school programming. These included potential for growth, a welcoming program climate, employment opportunities, and most importantly adult-youth partnerships. Youth identified some engagement strategies not noted by adult staff, such as ensuring that participants were actively welcomed when they arrived at program sites. Conclusions. Program characteristics can promote or deter strong engagement by youth participants. Community-based programs should work to incorporate characteristics that strengthen youth engagement, enabling them to better promote adolescent sexual health.

Learning Areas:
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning

Learning Objectives:
At the conclusion of this presentation participants will be able to 1) describe factors that help or hinder active engagement of urban adolescents involved in out-of-school time programs and 2) identify steps that after-school program providers can take that will enhance youth engagement, potentially contributing to health promotion among participants.

Keywords: Adolescents, Community Programs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I conducted interviews and am part of the data analysis team.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.