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Expanding Community Engagement & Research

CSU creates Youth Research Program for high school students         

Cleveland State University has received a grant from John Legend’s Show Me Campaign, the National Writing Project, and the U.S. Department of Education to design and lead a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) program that will engage high school students in conducting youth-led, community-focused research designed to improve neighborhood development and quality of life. 

The effort will be focused on year-one of a four-year research class sequence that students will take as part of their normal course of study. It will include being paired with a research mentor and a local community organization to identify an issue effecting the community and then designing a research project to address that issue. The program will be implemented with a cohort of 9thgrade students at Cleveland’s Campus International High School (CIS) and builds on a pilot initiative with CIS that was partially funded by a grant through CSU’s Faculty Scholarship Initiative.

“YPAR has been shown to be very effective in enhancing young people’s community engagement, fostering youth voice, and increasing high school students’ interest in research, but there have been few efforts to incorporate it into regular academic curricula for all students,” notes Molly Buckley-Marudas, assistant professor of teacher education at CSU and lead researcher on the project. “This grant will allow us to expand our pilot initiative with CIS to include local community organizations as research partners and student mentors, while serving as a model for other schools in Cleveland and across the nation.”

Based on students’ interests and preferences, the program will pair teams of ninth graders with a research mentor who is tied to a community organization. Together, teams will identify a problem facing the community and work together to collect original data to answer their questions and, subsequently, develop and implement a solution to the problem. During the process they will learn vital research skills, including surveying, interviewing and data analysis, while also developing an assessment tool to measure the effectiveness of the solution they implement.

After completing this first-year assignment, students, beginning in 10thgrade, will be able to continue with their partner organization to develop a broader, multi-year research project that can be conducted throughout the rest of their high school tenure. Partner organizations include the Campus District, Cleveland Public Library, Digital Cleveland, Lake Erie Inc. and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“As we confront continued social injustice and young people begin to position themselves as change agents in their communities, school-based research programs offer meaningful ways to leverage the voices of youth for social change and develop their capacities as researchers and civic leaders,” Buckley-Marudas adds