From 2008 to 2009, staff at Youth Radio, an Oakland, Calif., youth development and media organization, developed a sports and fitness teaching curriculum for low-income men (primarily those of color) and used it to:
"The goal was for students to think about health and social issues such as hypermasculinity, street violence and gender violence in ways they may not have previously," said Youth Radio Education Manager Patrick Johnson.
"Sports was a starting point to have conversations with which they would not have (otherwise) been comfortable [on] homophobia, domestic violence, substance abuse, healthy lifestyles," Johnson said. A lesson plan from the curriculum is available online.
Youth Radio, founded in 1990, defines its mission to include promoting the intellectual, creative and professional growth of underserved youth through greater media literacy and communications skills.
Youth Radio programs and commentaries reach a potential audience of 33 million weekly listeners through National Public Radio and 41 million monthly readers through The Huffington Post.
Activities: Staff conducted the program at three sites: Camp Wilmont Sweeney, Alameda County's juvenile detention facility in San Leandro (30 youths); the Booker T. Washington Community Center in San Francisco (eight youths); and Youth Radio headquarters in Oakland (18 youths).
Youth Radio made presentations on the curriculum in August 2009 at the National Association of Media Literacy Education conference in Detroit and in September 2009 to educators and youth service providers at Temple University in Philadelphia. A blog entry on the Philadelphia presentation is available online.
Funding: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project from December 2008 to November 2009 with a grant of $250,000. Other support came from the City of Oakland's Measure Y Fund ($65,000), the Stuart Foundation ($90,000) and The San Francisco Foundation ($30,000).
Afterward: Youth Radio posted articles by project participants and the lesson plan from the sports and fitness curriculum on a dedicated page of its website. Project staff launched programs for women using the sports and fitness curriculum and held workshops that brought both male and female groups together for some classroom sessions. Youth Radio also considered using the curriculum with gay males at the LGBTQ community center in Oakland.
Staff worked with Howard L. Pinderhughes, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of California at San Francisco, to measure behavior changes in the Camp Sweeney cohort. At the end of 2009, Camp Sweeney staff provided Youth Radio with a behavioral statistical report for each of its Sports and Fitness Beat participants. The report tracked "negative behavior" and school behavioral issues along with the number of reported incidents youth were involved in during their participation in Youth Radio programming.
It is difficult to determine if Youth Radio's intervention had an effect on these behavioral statistics, as each of the fields is highly dependent on the opinion of camp staff, and the details surrounding each incident were not reported. Further, data were not provided for the additional services residents were receiving (outside of counseling) during the time of participation.
However, involvement in incidents seemed low for the majority of Youth Radio participants, and those who worked with Youth Radio for multiple sessions saw decreases in negative behaviors and incidents. Youth Radio staff hopes to collect similar data from Camp Sweeney during 2010 to better identify project impact.