The research was designed to measure thefactors contributing to youth involvement in their communities. Toaccomplish these goals, multiple research sites (surveying numerouscommunity development focused 4-H groups throughout the state) andmultiple research methods (quantitative survey data, secondary data,and key informant interviews) were used. Each protocol was designedto help determine specific motivations for youth involvement and toidentify methods for better including youth in the communitydevelopment process.
There is a need for Extension program/policy developers to better understand the role of youth in the community development process. While often seen as suited only for 4-H programs, youth can significantly contribute to a variety of Extension activities. Through active engagement, youth can take on ownership and become lifelong contributors to local well-being. This mixed-methods research reflects data from a survey of 418 Florida youth and 12 in-depth key informant interviews. The findings provide insights into the factors most directly shaping youth attitudes and involvement in their communities. From these, implications for applied use in Extension programs are presented.
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Other factors have been reported by youth asinfluencing their need for and willingness to be a part of a greatergood through involvement. These include: feelings of efficacy(Sherrod, Flanagan, & Youniss, 2002), the need to be valued andtaken seriously by others in the community (Flanagan & Van Horn,2001), increasing their own self-esteem, and having a responsibilitytoward society by performing a public duty (Independent Sector,2001). Recognition by the community at large is part of feelingvalued (Scales & Leffert, 1999).
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Brennan, M.A., Barnett, R., & Lesmeister,M. (2006). Enhancing leadership, local capacity, and youthinvolvement in the community development process: findings from asurvey of Florida youth, Journal of the Community DevelopmentSociety,(forthcoming).
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Individually, all conceptual areas played arole in shaping community involvement. Efficacy and involvementinfluences were the strongest predictors of community involvement(R2=.24 and .16 respectively). Motivations were stronglyrelated as well (R2=.14). Among the sociodemographics thatwere positive and significantly related were age and householdincome. Rural/urban location was also significant, with rural youthbeing more involved. These items accounted for 11% of the variationin the model (R2=.11). Last, obstacles and influencesvariables played a role (R2=.10 and R2=.16respectively).
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A series of multiple regression models wereestimated to assess the partial effects of each conceptual area onyouth community involvement (Table 1). These models focus on eacharea individually. A final model considered all independent variablestogether, and was ultimately reduced, in order to obtain the mostparsimonious model.
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In June 2005, 12 key informant interviewswere conducted. These included 4-H administrators, educators, youthparticipants, and program administrators that include youth in theirefforts. A wide range of expertise and program interests was includedto help enhance reliability and validity. This research stage wasdesigned to aid in the identification of specific issues andmotivations for youth community involvement. Interviews facilitatedour understanding of the context of attitudes and actions, as wellprovided information that would not have been evident from survey orsecondary data. They were particularly helpful in the development ofquestions for use in the survey.