Implementation of ASPIRE Program: Using Storytelling to Explore and Foster Socio-Cultural Connectedness Among Black Youth

1/19/2022 5:09:00 AM

DREAAM: Driven to Reach Excellence and Academic Achievement for Males logoAcademic mentor: Shardé Smith

Community partner: DREAAM House

Project description: 
Most Black youth living in the United States experience racism and discrimination that threaten their sense of self and sense of safety, which increases the likelihood of experiencing racial trauma. Engaged family members, trusted adults, and peers enable Black youth to challenge negative perceptions of self and race, which facilitates psychological health. Using community healing, storytelling, and youth positive development frameworks, our interdisciplinary team (comprised of university scholars and community members) developed the Ambitions and Stories of young People Inspiring Resilience and Engagement (ASPIRE) program. The ASPIRE program is a youth-centered intervention that is co-created between trusted adult facilitators and middle school youth that facilitates psychological health.

The goals of ASPIRE are to promote the racial identities, social connectedness, health, and educational achievements of middle-school-aged Black boys and girls by using storytelling activities. Supported with funding from the Chancellor's Call to Action to Address Racism and Social Justice Research Grant, we are analyzing existing pilot evaluation data, refining the ASPIRE program based on pilot data and in collaboration with community stakeholders, and implementing an improved culturally-responsive program for Black youth.

In partnership with DREAAM House, a local community organization, we will collect evaluation data from youth program facilitators, Black middle-school youth, and their parents/caregivers in the form of self-report surveys, observational approaches, interviews, and focus groups in spring 2022. At bi-weekly research team meetings in summer 2022, we will discuss themes and findings from the data. We will then discuss the best ways to summarize the findings and make them available to our community partners. Findings from the qualitative and quantitative data will be disseminated at local meetings (e.g., Champaign Community Coalition) and to parents and community stakeholders. We will also create written documentation of findings that can be disseminated in the form of a community newsletter.

Role of the Community-Academic Scholar:

The Community-Academic Scholar will have two primary roles in this project. First, they will assist with analyzing evaluation data. The scholar will transcribe ASPIRE program data and work directly with ASPIRE facilitators and graduate students to ensure the data is properly recorded. Second, the scholar will assist with developing materials to disseminate findings to community stakeholders. The scholar will work with graduate students and Tracy Dace (Executive Director of DREAAM) to create research briefs that will be sent to ASPIRE participants and community stakeholders to inform them of the effectiveness of the program.