Youth-empowerment-group-focuses-on-evaluation-with-Tulane-grad-students-help

Youth-empowerment group focuses on evaluation with Tulane grad student's help

As an up and coming youth-running group, Youth Run NOLA knew it needed to show more evidence of its impact in the lives of the 11- to 18-year-olds it serves. So this summer, Tulane public health student Madeline Baars helped the organization revamp its methods for evaluating the program, which uses running as a tool to empower youth, improve their health and provide positive, structured after-school engagement.

Youth Run NOLA hired Baars for the internship through the Tulane Prevention Research Center’s practicum program, which matches graduate student interns and local host organizations for 300-hour practicum experiences.

Baars, a second year graduate student at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said she was interested in the internship because Youth Run NOLA focuses on building upon the positives in children's lives and communities, instead of using a risk reduction approach.

"I wanted my practicum to be here in New Orleans, working with a community organization that’s making a big impact," Baars said. "Youth Run NOLA is already doing incredible work with its students. The trick was to capture that good work, so that it can be communicated to stakeholders, partners, and funders.”

Baars' practicum included two main components. First, she collected formative information about what's currently happening in Youth Run NOLA and talked to different people involved in the organization – coaches, volunteers, parent coordinators and youth runners. Second, she reviewed scientific literature and case studies on similar programs, finding out what has been done and what works. That work included interviewing program directors for the other Youth Run chapters across the country, as well as interviewing directors of other youth development programs in New York, Oregon, North Carolina, and New Orleans.

At the culmination of her practicum, Baars created a toolkit for Youth Run NOLA to use for its evaluation and monitoring. The toolkit includes examples of survey tools and directions on how to interpret the data so that it's translated into accurate statements of the program's impact.

“Youth Run NOLA uses running to empower youth to live healthy and hopeful lives. Our students, although of all different athletic abilities and from all over the region, share a lack of opportunity for safe, healthy, after-school programming. Madeline’s evaluation toolkit will help us quantify the physical, mental, and emotional impact participating in this organization has on our youth,” said Denali Lander, Board Member at Youth Run NOLA and Baars’ supervisor. “Her hours of research and development of our evaluation tools will ensure we can capture all the growth we’ve heard anecdotally from our students, and their teachers and families, for years.”

Even though her practicum is over, Baars is continuing to volunteer with Youth Run NOLA. Youth Run NOLA serves youth in St. Bernard, Orleans, and Jefferson parishes from September to April. Since its inception in 2010, it has served more than 300 students at 16 school sites, run more than 8,000 miles, and logged more than 14,000 volunteer hours. For more information, visit yrnola.org..

by Naomi King Englar
September 2013

(Photos by Tulane PRC Staff: From left to right, Tulane graduate student Madeline Baars, Youth Run Nola Coach Liaison Alyssa Owens and a youth runner enjoy the 2nd Annual Tipitina’s Foundation Rhythm & Blues 5K Run in New Orleans in September.)

Topics:   health communication , physical activity , childhood obesity , running , youth engagement , practicum

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