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Program overview:

  • The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland and the THRiVE Research Collaborative at Cleveland State University are collaborating to create a youth research program, called Youth Research for Social Change.

  • In Youth Research for Social Change, youth researchers will investigate issues that impact the LGBTQ+ community and take actions that promote social change.

    • Through the program, youth will engage in Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). 

      • YPAR is an innovative approach to positive youth and community development in which young people are trained to conduct systematic research to improve their lives, their communities, and the institutions intended to serve them. 

      • YPAR is a cyclical process of learning and action – research is done not just for the sake of it but to inform solutions to problems that young people themselves care about. 

      • YPAR can be useful for any young people wanting to make a difference, and is an especially powerful approach for young people who are experiencing marginalization due to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, or other forms of oppression.

  • Youth researchers will meet weekly at the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland to collaborate on various research and social justice projects.


 

Dates of the program and time commitment: 

  • This program will occur over a two year span, with two phases.

    • Phase 1: October 2022 - August 2023

      • In this phase, youth researchers will develop research projects, collect and analyze data, and determine results from their projects.

    • Phase 2: September 2023 - February 2024 

      • In this phase, youth will move forward with various actions related to their research projects. All research projects will will explore some kind of issue or problem, related to youth experiences of gender, sexuality, sex, sexual health, and sex education. Based on their findings, youth will then take action in some way to promote equitable social change. Youth will present their findings and the actions they took to promote change in a research forum at The Center in February 2024.

  • Youth will meet with adult facilitators (from the LGBT Community Center and THRiVE) one time per week (on Mondays) for 90 minutes.


 

Description of the activities that youth researchers will engage in:

  • Do fun activities to find out what other youth think

  • Learn to interview other students about what they need

  • Tell adults what should be done to improve your community and the lives of LGBTQ+ youth

  • Work with mentors from the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland and Cleveland State University


 

Description of the ideal participants for this program:

  • Youth who want to participate in Youth Research for Social Change should:

    • Be in grades 9 - 12

    • Live in the Cleveland area, with plans to stay local from Oct. 2022 - Feb. 2024

    • Be passionate about issues impacting LGBTQ+ communities, especially youth

    • Be able to cooperate and work well with others

    • Want to learn new things

    • Care about their school and community


 

Benefits for youth researchers:

  • Youth researchers who participate in this project will develop a variety of skills that will prepare them for the workplace and/ or college. Adult mentors in the program will be happy to write letters of recommendation for college and/ or employment.

  • Each youth participant will receive $100/ month to compensate them for their time and effort. Youth will earn $1,600 by the end of the program. 

  • Youth will also be able to make change for their communities.


 

Sample youth research projects:

  • Below, we describe a variety of projects that youth researchers have conducted in programs across the country, like Youth Research for Social Change.

    • In California, a group of high school youth conducted research on their peers’ perceptions of their school dress code and gender bias in dress codes. Based on what they found, they developed a list of critiques to change the dress code and presented those critiques to administration. Once administration recognized the need to change the dress code, YPAR team members surveyed their peers and developed a revised dress code that was more just.

    • In Oregon, a group of high school youth conducted research on inadequacies in their school health curriculum. These youth created a survey which they distributed to all students at their high school. The survey asked youth if they felt their health classes covered inclusive information, especially for LGBTQ+ youth. They survey revealed that students desired much more from their health classes, and youth researchers worked with health teachers to change lessons to be more inclusive and relevant for all youth.

    • In Chicago, IL, high school aged youth decided to conduct research on disciplinary practices at school, which seemed to be unfair. These youth researchers surveyed and interviewed their peers about their perceptions of discipline at school. Youth researchers' findings convinced school administration to change their disciplinary policies and adopt a restorative justice approach to discipline.

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