Consistent exposure to violence and stress can lead to the development of problem behaviors, gang/clique engagement, and diminished quality of life. African American and Latino-American youth living in low income urban families and communities are most affected by these daily social and economic disadvantages. Positive relationships with significant adults and peers, and the development of protective coping factors foster resilience in these youth. The lab is currently engaged in a cross-age peer mentoring project in many of Chicago's high violence, low income communities. The lab was also recently engaged in a collaboration with CeaseFire and Enlace in two projects summarized below.
The ongoing and primary lab project is evaluating the effectiveness of community based cross-age mentoring to reduce negative outcomes related to violence exposure/engagement and promote positive development among African-American and Latino youth living in high-risk environments. This mentoring program has been dubbed "Saving Lives, Inspiring Youth" or S.L.I.Y. following feedback from lab members and participants in the program. Cross-age peer mentoring programs have been found to overcome the problems and ineffectiveness of other types of mentoring programs and are important to further evaluate. Click here to learn more about the mentoring project.
One of the lab projects is testing the effectiveness of an intervention, the Civic Engagement Curriculum with CeaseFire modifications (CEC-CF), designed to decrease stress and increase coping in urban minority youth located in the high violence and low income Chicago community of Englewood. Our preliminary studies suggest that this 15 session positive psychology, community based approach to intervention will yield enhanced empowerment, and better mental health, including less problematic behaviors. Peace Circles and Restorative Justice create a frame for this work. This project has the important goals of 1) preventing negative outcomes related to violence exposure/engagement and promoting positive development, 2) disseminating knowledge at both the community and academic levels, and 3) eventual implementation in other low income urban communities.
A second project involved a collaboration with Enlace, a community based organization that serves the Little Village neighborhoods, where residents are Mexican American. We are utilizing GIS mapping techniques to better understand the experience of the youth who live there, with the goal of reducing their exposure to, and engagement in, community violence.