The Youth Participatory Action Research Program, also known as YPAR, is a class that focuses on addressing and finding solutions to issues that are prevalent in the GDS community. This year, the class is researching the question, “How can GDS implement and improve support systems that enable each student to thrive?” In this blog post, current and past members of YPAR look beyond the research and share how YPAR has prepared them with skills that are applicable beyond the class.
One of the first things we learn to do in YPAR is to work as a team. We devote more class time to checking in with each other and forming deeper connections with our peers than we do in any other class. Having these bonds is vital to our research because we have a strong trust in one another and can help each other effectively. Katie Shambaugh ’19 said, “I learned that I was able to create a much bigger impact when I worked with my fellow students (and friends!) in YPAR” and Julia Pastreich ’20 writes that “connections like the ones I have with my YPAR cohort are essential to all productive group work, whether in school or not.” The explicit effort we put in to building our cohort means that every member of YPAR, student or teacher, is powerfully bonded and prepared to support one another throughout our research and action process. Learning how to connect with peers is an invaluable skill that we will all carry beyond the YPAR classroom.
In order for us to support each other, members of YPAR need to know their peers’ (and their own) strengths and weaknesses. The work we do has many complicated parts and every person finds different tasks challenging. When we know what our peers are good at, we can step back and allow them to take the lead. Charli Vogel ’20 said, “I have become a better leader by learning how to lean on my peers and work cohesively as a team.” Our ability to recognize our own and others’ skills and challenge areas makes our work immensely more productive and enjoyable, which is something that Murad Nashid ’20 believes is an important aspect of YPAR: “YPAR has taught me how to voice my opinion but also let other people talk too in order to achieve our common goal, which is improving the community that we are in.” Our ability to work as a team enables us to make substantial change within the GDS community.
Being able to analyze and break down data is an important aspect of YPAR. In order to gain a sense of the student and teacher body, our group must collect data in various forms, including focus groups, surveys, and interviews. The skills that we gain from conducting these hands-on practices allow us to understand the importance of understanding and analyzing our data. “I learned how to manipulate qualitative and quantitative data, and use it to provide arguments for social change,” Katie said. Through these experiences, we have also become more confident leaders in our community. In YPAR we have had opportunities to present to students and staff, which has pushed us to improve our ability to speak publicly.
YPAR has provided us with knowledge and connections that will prove useful to us for years to come. This class has given us the framework to succeed and taught us how to come back from failure—skills that will be vital to our futures, no matter where we end up.