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Focusing on high-risk teens and their communities
New ISSC center probes causes and prevention of youth violence. Visiting-speakers program launches next week

| 28 September 2006

What makes high-risk teens tick? What are some of the best strategies for keeping them out of harm's way?

A community of scholars at the Center on Culture, Immigration, and Youth Violence Prevention - a newly created campus entity - is putting these questions squarely in its sights. The center, based at the campus's 30-year old Institute for the Study of Social Change (ISSC), is not only embarking on two federally funded research projects but is launching a speaker's series, beginning Oct. 5, designed to stimulate dialogue on the causes and prevention of youth violence.

"The new center reflects many of our longstanding commitments to doing community-based research, building academic partnerships, and nurturing a new generation of scholars," says ISSC director Rachel Moran, professor of law. "We hope to move the policy discourse beyond the assumption that violence is an individual pathology by exploring how to build healthy communities for immigrant youth."

Youth Violence Prevention Speaker Series

Thursday, Oct. 5, noon-1:30 p.m., ISSC, 2420 Bowditch St.
Ayodele Nzinga: "The Art of Envisioning Change"
Ayodele Nzinga is the founder and director of the Lower Bottom Playaz at the Sister Thea Bowman Memorial Theater in West Oakland. Working with a diverse group of actors, including many West Oakland residents, she has adapted Macbeth to create Mack: A Gangsta's Tale (on stage Oct. 6-15). Nzinga will discuss her adaptation of Macbeth and the way her theatrical troupe moves between Ebonics, classic Shakespeare, and spoken word to express graphically the anger and anguish of living in violent conditions. She will explore the connections between expressive arts, violence prevention, and the fostering of social responsibility though enactment of story.

Wednesday, Oct. 25, noon-1:30 p.m., location TBA
Peter Greenwood: "Progress and Politics in Crime Prevention"
A professor of criminology, law, and society at UC Irvine, Greenwood founded the RAND Corporation's Criminal Justice Program, which he directed for more than eight years. He has published widely in the areas of violence prevention, juvenile justice, criminal careers, sentencing, corrections, law enforcement, and cyber crime. His many publications include Changing Lives: Delinquency Prevention as Crime-Control Policy and, most recently, Investing in Our Children.

Wednesday, Oct. 25, 4-6 p.m., National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 1970 Broadway, Suite 500, Oakland
Peter Greenwood: "Evidence-Based Youth- Violence Prevention: What Communities Can Do"

Wednesday, Nov. 8, 4-6 p.m., 3335 Dwinelle
Screening of Girl Trouble with director Lexi Leban
This documentary film, winner of a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival, tells the stories of three girls - one African American, one European American, and one Samoan - in that city's juvenile justice system. The youth-led organization Center for Young Women's Development is also featured in the film.

Thursday, Nov. 30, noon-1:30 p.m., ISSC, 2420 Bowditch St.
Nancy Guerra: "Implementing Evidence-Based Youth-Violence Prevention Programs in Immigrant Latino Communities"
Nancy Guerra is a professor of psychology at UC Riverside and director of the Southern California Center of Excellence on Youth Violence Prevention. She is presently conducting research on the Families and Schools Together intervention with Latino children and families. She is co-editor of the book Preventing Youth Violence in a Multicultural Society.

For information on the lecture series, contact Deborah Lustig at dlustig@berkeley.edu or 643-7238.

Research will focus particularly on Latino and Asian Pacific Islander youth in Oakland, reports Deborah Lustig, a cultural anthropologist newly hired to support the center's research agenda. The two ethnic groups, she says, are under-studied and have many issues in common - language being one, parent-child conflicts (when the parents are immigrants and the children are U.S.-born) being another. There are also differences within and between ethnic groups that may be informative. In general, Asian American youth are doing better in terms of school performance, graduation rates, and delinquency and arrest rates, Lustig says. Understanding why may be a key to helping youth of all backgrounds flourish.

One investigation, set to begin within weeks, will put Palm Pilots in the hands of 60 Oakland teens, who will use the devices not only to do their own thing but to enter their responses to probing survey questions on their feelings and activities - the idea being that they're much more likely to complete the comprehensive Roosevelt Village Center Outcome Evaluation if they use a PDA (which they get to keep if they complete the study) than if they're filling out printed survey forms. In addition, 450 teens will complete surveys on touch-screen computers.

Headed by lead investigator Thao Le of Colorado State University, the research will evaluate the effectiveness of an after-school program at Roosevelt Middle School, in Oakland's largely Asian and Latino Lower San Antonio District; community participation is built into the study design as well.

A second study, led by Emily Ozer, assistant professor in Berkeley's School of Public Health, will involve teenagers as collaborators in - rather than just recipients of - school-based violence- and substance-abuse-prevention programs. The research probes the implementation of prevention programs in local schools, looking at how youth and their teachers would suggest adapting these programs to their own circumstances and cultural values. The study also investigates how training groups of students in research methods can help benefit the social development of the youth and also potentially improve the schools they attend.

The ISSC research center has also selected three campus graduate students from education and epidemiology whose research relates to youth-violence-prevention issues to participate in its graduate-fellow training program. One of 10 academic programs chosen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of a national research initiative on youth violence, it is run jointly by ISSC, the School of Law, the National Council on Crime Delinquency, and UC San Francisco, with a $4.2 million grant from the CDC. Law professor Franklin Zimring, an expert in criminal justice and family law, is the principal investigator.