GONZALES — Public school students are often the subjects of research studies about youth psychology. But in Gonzales, students in the local school system and on the Gonzales Youth Council (GYC) researched and coauthored their own study that was published in a national journal on school psychology.
The published study was supported by the partnership between the City of Gonzales and Dr. Jennifer Lovell, associate professor of psychology at California State University Monterey Bay.
The article, “Using Youth-led Participatory Action Research to Advance the Mental Health Needs of Latinx Youth During Covid-19,” was published in the National Association of School Psychologists quarterly journal, School Psychology Review.
“Publication in a national scholarly journal is a rare achievement for high school students,” according to the City of Gonzales in a news release Oct. 31.
Youth-led participatory action research (YPAR) is a collaborative approach for engaging young people as experts and leaders in the research process. The article is based on a project undertaken by the GYC.
The GYC is a unique youth leadership and development program sponsored by the City of Gonzales with support from the Gonzales Unified School District. Every year the GYC undertakes a service-learning project to improve the community. One area that was greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic was the area of youth mental health.
“The GYC chose youth mental health as their service-learning project because they recognized students were stressed by pandemic-related school closures, social isolation and the challenges of remote learning,” the release stated.
GYC members conducted a mental health survey among Gonzales middle and high school students and successfully used the survey results to advocate for increased mental health support in schools. The results of their efforts included the addition of a second school-based licensed clinical social worker.
The purpose of the study is to showcase the potential of YPAR as a tool for social justice and equity work in schools. In the article, the YPAR approach is explained and the GYC’s focus on youth well-being during the Covid-19 pandemic is used as the example of a YPAR project.
The survey project research, design, recruitment, analysis and interpretation were all led by the GYC with support from adult allies and the process is detailed in the published manuscript.
“The study found that the GYC effectively used their YPAR project to learn, share, advocate and engage in action to make change and provides an example of how YPAR can be used as a tool for youth participation and empowerment,” the release continued.
Three Youth Commissioners participated in the writing of the published manuscript. The article is one of only a few coauthored by youth researchers and sharing findings from a youth-led action research project.
The impact statement in the article recommends school psychologists and adult allies consider using YPAR as a tool for advancing equity and justice in collaboration with young people.
The accepted manuscript of the article published by Taylor & Francis in School Psychology Review is available at tinyurl.com/589sju6y.