FUNDING SOURCE: CDC American Legacy Foundation, 2000 – 2003


  • Deborah Parra-Medina, PhD


  • DeAnne Messias, PhD
  • Louise Jennings, PhD
  • Dennis Shepard, MAT, CHES


  • Sherer Royce, MPH, Project Coordinator
  • Elizabeth Fore, MEd, Data Analyst

The University of South Carolina Prevention Research Center in the Norman J. Arnold School of Public Health received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control Foundation and the American Legacy Foundation to learn more about youth programs in South Carolina.  The goal of the three-year project was to develop a comprehensive program model for tobacco use prevention and effective guidelines for enhancing youth development and empowerment in youth programs.

Youth development and empowerment represents a paradigm shift in prevention efforts. This concept is grounded in a philosophy that places value on all youth, not just those at risk, and emphasizes building their strengths and potential for development and resiliency.  Empowerment is seen as one of the most effective strategies for providing young people with opportunities to develop competencies.

Following a participatory action research model, the current study partnered with community programs to assess youth development and empowerment. The subjects of the research became the researchers themselves.  During the exploratory first year, multiple methods were used to identify variables for inclusion in the conceptual framework, including a comprehensive literature review, key leader interviews and photovoice, a documentary photography technique.  During year two, the model was tested with multiple surveys sent to a random selection of youth programs across the state and to youth participating in those programs.  Analysis and dissemination occurred in year three.