Adolescent Health

Six-Session Program Reengages Disconnected Young Women

September 13, 2022

In 2019, Associate Professor Terri Powell and a team of researchers developed a program to support female adolescents who are not working or in school. The team engaged 18 young women over 6 weeks of positive social programming — imparting life skills for leadership development and personal growth and creating a supportive social network. Most of the women who participated were African American (94%) and some had children (25%). All of them were either enrolled in an education program or had recently graduated with a diploma/GED. 

The YO! Baltimore leadership worked with Powell’s team to develop the first five sessions. Program participants were invited to co-design the last session. Sessions included art therapy, career development, coping with trauma, and cultural enrichment. During implementation, debrief meetings were held with youth participants, facilitators, and YO! staff separately to gather information on their experience and perceptions of the program. 

The team learned four important lessons from implementing the program and engaging with opportunity youth:  

  1. Youth want consistent, long-term programming that is trauma-informed, provides childcare, and includes flexibility in its design and implementation.  

  1. Involving youth in program design and implementation increases their buy-in and engagement, making it worth the additional effort.  

  1. Due to the many challenges these youth face, success is best defined by smaller steps taken towards a larger goal. For example, attending class daily or seeking individual support from a counselor are smaller, but tangible successes that can keep youth encouraged to maintain positive decisions. 

  1. Young people are unaware of community resources, and local organizations are unaware of the best ways to reach and engage them. National models such as Catchafire could provide a prototype for bridging the disconnect between community resources and opportunity youth in Baltimore.  

To read more about their findings, see the article published in Perspectives in Public Health in March 2020

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