Youth Organizing Trajectories: Critical Consciousness, Developmental Competencies, and School Engagement

Can youth organizing experiences help young people develop critical consciousness and developmental competencies and promote their school engagement?

Prior research suggests that participation in youth organizing can improve college-going rates and civic participation among low income and/or racial and ethnic minority youth. The team will make a key contribution to the literature by carefully considering selection issues and examining specific ways in which youth organizing participation is related to school engagement—defined as school attendance and self-reports of engagement with learning tasks—and later postsecondary outcomes. The proposed study tests whether youth organizing activities support youth development of critical consciousness (capacity and commitment to producing social and political change) and developmental competencies (behaviors and attitudes critical to academic and later success). The team will examine three cohorts of youth participating in youth organizing groups in four cities to analyze whether participation in organizing contributes to growth in critical consciousness and developmental competencies, and whether this growth supports school engagement. The comparison group will be at least 450 youth participating in other out-of-school-time initiatives that do not focus on youth activism. The team hypothesizes that by supporting the development of critical consciousness, youth organizing provides extra benefits for racial and ethnic minority and/or low income youth, as compared to other out of school activities. The team will analyze a combination of administrative data, and data from longitudinal interviews and focus groups.

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