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Adult Roles in Community-Based Youth Empowerment Programs: Implications for Best Practices

Messias, DeAnne K. Hilfinger PhD, RN; Fore, Elizabeth M. MEd; McLoughlin, Kerry MA; Parra-Medina, Deborah PhD


Current literature on community-based youth empowerment programs provides few specific operational descriptions of adult roles. This research addressed that gap by exploring the perspectives and experiences of adults actively engaged with youth empowerment programs. Data were gathered through in-depth interviews, field observations, and interactive group discussions with adult program leaders. The following dimensions of adults' work were identified: putting youth first; raising the bar for youth performance; creating the space and making things happen; being in relationships; exerting influence, control, and authority; and communicating and connecting with the broader community. These findings provide guidance for the development of best practices in community-based youth empowerment programs.

College of Nursing and Women's Studies Program (Dr Messias) and Arnold School of Public Health and Women's Studies Program (Drs Fore and Parra-Medina), University of South Carolina, Columbia; and Family Health International, Research Triangle Park, NC (Ms McLoughlin).

Corresponding author: DeAnne K. Hilfinger Messias, PhD, RN, College of Nursing and Women's Studies Program, University of South Carolina, 201 Flinn Hall, Columbia, SC 29208 (e-mail:

This article does not necessarily represent the views of the American Legacy Foundation or the CDC Foundation, their respective staff, or their respective Board of Directors.

This project was supported by funds from the American Legacy Foundation with collaboration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation, and scientific and technical assistance from the CDC.

The authors acknowledge the participation of Louise Jennings, Sherer Royce, and Terri Williams on this project and appreciate the comments and suggestions of 2 anonymous peer reviewers.

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.