A Community-Based Grassroots Organization in the South Bronx as a Catalyst for Youth Organizing and Activism: Analyzing the Dynamics of a Transformative Youth Program
Poncelet, Julie Anne Paul
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A transformative youth program is an approach to youth development that is focused on engaging youth in understanding and changing unjust conditions in their lives, thereby transforming themselves and the communities in which they live. The purpose of this research is threefold: (1) to explore the role of a transformative youth program in catalyzing youth organizing and activism; (2) to investigate how a neighborhood's social and spatial conditions shape the civic education and actions of low-income, urban ethnic youth who are engaged in a transformative program; and (3) to understand how the participants such a program perceive themselves as change agents. The research centers around youth (ages 15 to 18) attending a community-based youth program in the South Bronx that engages participants in addressing social and environmental injustices in their neighborhood of Hunts Point. Nationally, Hunts Point lies within one of the poorest congressional districts and locally, it is one of New York City's most marginalized neighborhoods. Popularly referred to as "America's Urban Armageddon," Hunts Point offers a compelling place, with a dynamic social and spatial context, for the study of a transformative youth program. The research found that (1) raising youth participants' critical consciousness, encouraging their contributions to local knowledge production and exchange, and empowering their sense of civic efficacy are key to yielding transformative outcomes; (2) youth define their neighborhoods in terms of positive and supportive social bonds fostered in the struggle against spatial inequities; and (3) youth distinguish youth activism from activism in general, which they perceive to be what adults do, and conceptualize the former as the collective response by youth and their adult allies to community-based struggles.
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