First a club and now a class, YPAR (Youth Participatory Action Research) has collectively tried to advocate and educate the student body on important topics in order to enact change.
According to senior Katie Shambaugh and a member of the class, “It is a great outlet for students to have a voice and say, ‘we think this should be changed.’” YPAR is unique in the extra research students conduct to support their initiatives, test their assumptions, and make GDS more equitable. Through the combination of social justice work and research, YPAR participants have made strides towards changing the infrastructure of the school along with developing important leadership skills.
YPAR members do projects like conducting research, interviewing students and sending out surveys to further understand the problems GDS students face. Then, they combine their research into a proposal that defines the issue and details for a possible solution. For example, last year YPAR wrote a proposal regarding participation in sports for students on financial aid. Given the expenses to pay for equipment, transportation, and training, YPAR students were concerned about the socioeconomic problem within the athletic department. After they pitched their proposal to the upper administration and the Board of Trustees, students on financial aid will likely be able to access a new fund to help cover the cost of athletics. While YPAR’s proposal is pending with upper administration, the class is now focusing on mental health and the role that it plays in the GDS community.
In addition to research and advocating, a big part of YPAR is collaborating and working as a team. Because all the students pursue the same project, a huge part of the class is being able to work efficiently and easily in a group. Every class, students have check-ins where they talk about their day and settle down. These check-ins foster a sense of community, which makes it easier for students to work with one another.
“The class itself is a space outside of the day that is just something fun and enjoyable that we all look forward to,” said Shambaugh.
In addition, the skills YPAR teaches are very hands-on and combine elements of math and liberal arts. Students have to crunch numbers, but also write questions and look at literature reviews.
“It’s a very good connection between STEM and humanities…and skills you are going to need for college,” said senior Laila Nashid. YPAR offers a unique experience that gives students an outlet to work with their peers, staff and administration, while learning skills that will be useful for college and beyond.
For students interesting in joining YPAR, no past experience is required. While having some previous involvement in diversity work is helpful, everyone who is interested is encouraged to at least sit in and see how the class works. According to Nashid, this class is not only for students interested in diversity, but also for those interested in making any type of change in their community.
YPAR is centered around students and creating change that pertain to students’ lives. Suzy Hamon, a YPAR teacher, loves the class because of action research and opportunities to combine skills that students have been working on. Hamon said, “It’s the best thing I get to do. It really is a really cool experience.”
Kate Vidano ’21