Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) has changed the after-school programs at the YMCA of Honolulu. Teens are now engaged in identifying solutions to the issues they see in their communities. The approach has built leadership among several dozen teens.
YPAR guides teens through an eight-step process that includes
Participants get hands-on, project-based learning experience in public health approaches.
In 2015, teens and adult allies at the YMCA received training on the YPAR process. They learned to restore a school garden they remembered loving as grade school students. The garden is maintained to this day, at a school with a 100% free and reduced lunch rate. It now provides hands-on learning experiences and fruits and vegetables for 456 students. The YPAR teens led cooking demonstrations using the garden’s produce and delivered nutrition education sessions to the younger students.
After this initial success, another group of YPAR teens decided to assist in the restoration of Ulupō heiau. A heiau is a sacred site. The Ulupō heiau rests behind the YMCA building. The site sits atop a series of terraces that in the past were used to grow traditional crops, such as taro, for Native Hawaiians.
Teens involved in the YPAR process have learned the importance of indigenous knowledge to health and community well-being. They describe it in empowering terms. They have also developed a teen leadership council. The council is focused on making change and impact in their community.
“I want to make a lasting impact that will positively affect many generations, and I believe YPAR is a great way to do that. Together, the Windward YMCA Teen Council works towards making a difference, building lasting relationships and memories, and bringing positive change to our communities.”
- Angela, a 17-year-old participant
The YPAR approach is measured and evaluated by process measures. It also looks at short-term, mid-term and long term measures from the SNAP-Ed Evaluation Framework and interpretive guide. This work is being led in partnership with the Hawaii Department of Health.
This story was submitted by YMCA of Honolulu. For further information, please contact Kamal Khaira.