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Title:The civic development of youth of color in urban community-based youth programs: Understanding process and context
Author(s):Watkins, Natasha D.
Director of Research:Larson, Reed W.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Aber, Mark S.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Larson, Reed W.; Allen, Nicole E.; Kwon, Soo Ah; Neville, Helen A.
Department / Program:Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Positive Youth Development
Civic Engagement
Youth Programs
Abstract:Community-based youth organizing programs (CBYOs) have been identified as particularly favorable contexts for youth civic engagement (Flanagan & Faison, 2001; Kirshner, 2004). Yet few studies have explored the developmental processes whereby youth become civically engaged through participation in CBYOs. Furthermore, more empirical work is needed that identifies those outcomes associated with youth’s participation as well as those contextual features of CBYOs that support youth’s civic development. This dissertation employed a longitudinal qualitative interview design in its examination of 20 African American and Latino youth participating in two community-based youth organizing programs, Youth Action and Harambee, located in an urban Midwestern city. Study data included a 137 youth interviews, 21 program leader interviews, and 23 program observations conducted weekly and/or biweekly over a 3 to 4-month period. Data were coded for underlying themes and concepts following grounded theory methods (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Data analysis suggested a five-stage process of civic development in which youth developed an awareness of civic issues; began to personalize or connect with the issues; engaged in critical social analysis; took action around civic issues; and, in some cases, began to cultivate a commitment to civic justice. Associated with this process of development was youth’s enhancement of skills such as working cooperatively, developing a sense of political efficacy, and demonstrating leadership potential. The Harambee and Youth Action programs provided four contextual features that appeared to facilitate youth’s civic development. Both programs fostered a culture of youth empowerment, engaged youth in consciousness-raising activities, provided youth opportunities for meaningful community participation, and provided youth with instrumental and emotional support as they engaged in civic actions. Together, the findings of this dissertation suggest community-based youth organizing programs as viable contexts for youth civic development. Given the disenfranchisement that exists in urban communities, community youth organizing may be an important process whereby youth of color discover their voice, develop critical consciousness, and enact democracy.
Issue Date:2010-01-06
Rights Information:Copyright 2009 Natasha D. Watkins
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-01-06
Date Deposited:December 2

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