Long Branch YPAR (Youth Participatory Action Research)
How can CHEER create sustainable changes in Long Branch?
Since its inception, and as a part of our community process, CHEER has been researching to learn first-hand information to continue building and improving community engagement and developing community leadership. At CHEER, we understand the powerful impact of community improvement through youth advocacy, activism, and development. History maintains that young people are overwhelmingly a force for good and have continuously successfully advocated community organizing and policy changes.
Therefore, proposing YPAR as an approach to research has been a useful tool intended to result in some action, change, or improvement on the issue being researched. Established under the LBCAY (Long Branch Collective Action for Youth in 2019, LBCAY is funded through a Montgomery County Community Grant and intended to improve agency coordination and outcomes for youth in the Long Branch area. Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) was recommended as a transformative youth development tool for social and environmental change. We hope that YPAR will help other organizations engage young people in the decision-making processes that affect their lives and integrate youth voices into the creation of strategies and policies in a meaningful way. Eventually, youth see the power of using their voice for action!
COVID-19 was a deterrent in 2020, but CHEER continues its critical work of youth and community development. Even though we started small in 2021 with five Long Branch high school students along with Vanesa Pinto, CHEER's Empowerment and Leadership Development Program Director, and two representatives from YMCA, we saw the impact in youth and how much they appreciated being asked and being heard about issues that were relevant for them and their community. In the summer of 2022, we had ten participants that were able to present their work to the LBCAY stakeholder group. CHEER has plans to continue the program in 2023 and expand this approach to other parts of the community!