Last year, a group of nine GDS High School students worked together as a Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) cohort to research issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the High School community. We started the process of raising awareness and crafting solutions to these problems by sending surveys, meeting with experts, and presenting our findings at the annual roundtable gathering of organizations sponsoring YPAR at the Center for Studies of Boys and Girls’ Lives at the University of Pennsylvania.
This year, YPAR is officially a class, giving us more time during the school day to further our research. We are focusing on the effect that socioeconomic status has on high school athletes. We believe that examining the connection between socioeconomic status and sports will create increased awareness about the financial barriers to athletic participation. By raising awareness, the GDS community can begin to make athletics more accessible.
We employed a variety of methods to obtain a thorough and layered representation of opinion at our school. Beginning with a survey to the entire school, we gathered preliminary data about students’ perspectives on the role of socio-economic status in sports. We then used this data as a foundation to start our focus group questions. Our focus groups sought to obtain qualitative data and hear individual voices in our community, including those of non-athletes, athletes, and coaches.
Recently, the YPAR cohort talked to the entire sixth grade about our class and the work we are doing to better our community. We shared stories and data with the sixth graders, explaining how we have learned to become leaders in our community through examining the behaviors and actions of our peers and ourselves. We also discussed how our education in the Middle School about socioeconomic status and race has traveled with us to the High School and helped us in this work.
YPAR allows students to actively research pressing issues within our community and attempt to create solutions. By combining a passion for social justice with the power of science and research, we are able to implement change in efficient and thorough ways.