Youth-Nex | The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development

Youth-Nex is a trans-disciplinary center devoted to promoting healthy youth development through focused research, training and service. The cross-University center’s work encompasses a wide range of areas including health management, civic engagement, education, and social responsibility. Youth-Nex also aims to prevent youth problems such as violence; physical and mental health issues; substance abuse and school failure.

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A year ago, we had no idea our town would become a focal point in the battle for racial justice. We had no idea that Charlottesville would become a hashtag.

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Youth-Nex Programs

Youth-Nex programs of research focus on critical areas of youth development. These programs are multi-investigator, cross-disciplinary systematic research efforts. Each program is led by a U.Va. faculty member possessing substantial experience and expertise. It is our goal to generate new understanding about the most useful practices and appropriate policies in youth development.

  • Supportive Relationships

    Youth-Nex is focusing on how peer relationships and parents influence at-risk youth and how these youth influence social norms and groups. For example, while the negative affects of peer influence is well-recognized, there is much less acknowledgement of the positive role that others can play in the lives of youth. The center also focuses on the affects and uses of social media with an emphasis on positive influences for youth. This program of research will build upon Drs. Allen and Tolan’s work on how peer and parent influences occur and are interrelated during adolescence to identify how peer networks and parental engagement about managing peer relations can optimize development and reduce risk for antisocial behavior.

    Program Leader: Joseph P. Allen
    Hugh Kelly Professor of Psychology. 

  • Healthy Lifestyles

    Our young people are growing up with challenges not faced by prior generations. Sedate lifestyles, a growing dependence on technology, and easy access to unhealthy food, have increasingly negatively impacted their well being. As a result, health management has become a critical area for effective youth functioning. Youth-Nex brings together faculty from across the University including Kinesiology, Pediatrics, Public Health, Education, as well as experts from the community, to provide needed scientific basis for health promotion. Exploration of the rates of obesity and concomitant disorders are included in the focus of this research.

    Program Leader: Arthur L. Weltman, Professor and Chair, Department of Kinesiology

  • Avoiding Risk

    Youth-Nex is utilizing sophisticated models of multi-factor influences to identify what puts adolescents at risk. 

    The program builds upon work Drs. Tolan, Cornell, and Cox have conducted over the past twenty-five years to prevent development of serious behavior problems, engagement in violence, smoking, alcohol, and other drug use. The center also provides guidance at the local and national levels working to improve community, state, and national efforts for monitoring and decision-making about these issues. This effort will also integrate threat assessment (for schools and communities) with evidence-based practices to reduce youth antisocial behavior and sophisticated economic analyses of service delivery systems.

    Program Leaders:
    Dewey G. Cornell, Professor of Education, Endowed Chair. Director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project
    Daniel J. Cox, Professor, Departments of Psychiatric Medicine and Internal Medicine. Director of the Center for Behavioral Medicine Center Research

  • Engaged Citizenship

    The health and security of our society is dependent on the personal and social development of our youth. Youth-Nex recognizes our young people as an often untapped resource, with the potential to lead, create and contribute to communities and the world in countless ways.  The center is working to support the connection of youth to their communities and promote their capacity for leadership and civic life now and into adulthood.

  • Program Evaluation and Community Consultation

    We Bring Science to Life....

    The Program Evaluation and Community Consultation branch of Youth-Nex uses science to directly advance evidence-based and data-driven programming for youth in the localities and the State of Virginia. Building on the existing community strengths, we rigorously test effectiveness of programming, initiatives, and policies to improve implementation and create sustainable change.

    What Organizations Might Have
       •  An idea for a program, initiative, or policy and the desire to measure effectiveness and impact from the beginning
       •  A group of people invested in an issue and interested in developing and monitoring a plan for going forward
       •  An identified community problem or service gap and the desire to do something about it
       •  A program, initiative, or policy underway and the desire to demonstrate its effectiveness and impact
       •  The desire to make data-driven decisions for moving forward
       •  The desire to understand what customers or potential customers really need
       •  Data and a desire to understand it

    Questions We Can Answer
       •  Did an afterschool tutoring program result in higher grades and test scores for the children in it?
               Were there unintended outcomes?
       •  How do youth think differently about risk taking after completing the program?
       •  What do the people served want and need?  What would they have programming do differently?
       •  What is known about the best afterschool programs?
       •  Youth scored better at the end of the program, but how much better did they need to do for it to be meaningful?
       •  What are the trends in the data?
       •  How can data be used in “real time” to guide decision making by program leaders?
       •  How can the data be brought together so that reasonable conclusions can be drawn?
       •  How has the intended strategy changed during the process of program implementation?
       •  How can the program be better implemented?
       •  How can the program effectively adapt to changing circumstances without compromising outcomes?

    We Bring Science to Life…
    We support effective youth development by using program evaluation to determine how well and in what ways programs and policies are working, and by supporting effective coalitions and collaborations. Our team is dedicated to collaborating with organizations to develop high-quality, culturally-competent evaluations, conducted with minimal disruption to the organization. Our team is responsive and flexible to changing conditions, and produces succinct, easy-to-understand deliverables with direct, actionable value.

    We also produce timely research briefs and white papers on emerging issues; information on evidence-based practices and youth development, risk, and prevention; as well as providing consultation on innovative program and policy development; training; and grant writing support.

    We Support Excellent Programming
    •    Design and conduct needs assessments, surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, interviews, record reviews
         and observations
    •    Develop logic models and theories of change
    •    Demonstrate how a program is developing or has changed over time
    •    Measure program and policy effectiveness and impact
    •    Move programs to the next step or level

    We Leverage Data
    •    Develop databases and shared information systems
    •    Organize and clean data
    •    Use plain English data analysis

    We Build Organizational Capacity
    •    Write reports, white papers, and issue briefs
    •    Provide information on evidence-based practice and information on youth development
    •    Collaborate on grant writing
    •    Provide capacity building technical assistance
    •    Provide action-oriented training and individualized consultation
    •    Make connections with resources across the University