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ACE Center Descriptions: Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University
PI: Albert Farrell, Ph.D.


The Virginia Commonwealth University Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development (Clark-Hill) was formally established in 2005. However, the institute represents a merger of two previously established centers at VCU – the Center for Study and Prevention of Youth Violence, which was one of first five developing ACE’s funded in 2000, and the Center for Promotion and Positive Youth Development. The institute’s mission is to empower youth, schools, families and other stakeholders to promote the health, safe and positive development of youth in the Richmond community from early adolescence through young adulthood. Clark-Hill is working closely with community representatives to develop an action plan to address youth violence. The action plan involves identifying factors that place youth at risk and the creation of programs that will promote positive development among the youth in Richmond.

The institute’s primary focus is on youth aged 10-24 and their families living in Richmond, Virginia. In 2009, Richmond had an estimated population of 205,451; including 42,931 youth aged 10 to 24. According to the 2009 census, 52% of the population was African American, which represented 57% of youth aged 10-24. Notable socio-economic and racial disparities have had a negative impact on youth development and violence prevention efforts. The percentage of youth (12-24 year olds) living in poverty in this community is 48%, which is three times the state’s average. This is an indication of the magnitude of the youth violence problem in Richmond. The 2008 homicide rate in Richmond was 15.5 homicides per 100,000, nearly three times the national average of 5.4 per 100,000. The majority of homicides is among youths ages 15-24 years. Homicide is the leading cause of death among this age group. Violence in this community disproportionately affects African American youth, where African Americans composite 90% of youth who died of intentional injury. Although the youth violence of Richmond has had a negative impact on the community, many community members are working with VCU-ACE to develop a comprehensive, multifaceted prevention program to reduce rates of violence among the youth. This will provide youth with programs that will integrate and reinforce positive developmental change in all aspects of their lives.

Clark-Hill is working with community partners and city agencies to coordinate and implement a set of school-based, family-focused, and community-based programs. The community-based intervention aids in: (1) building capacity of youth serving organizations to increase the availability and access to high-quality, evidence-based positive youth development resources; and (2) strengthening social capital that build parent and youth awareness and connection to these resources. Clark-Hill is utilizing an innovative quasi-experimental approach, the multiple baseline design, which will assist them in evaluating community-level changes. Clark-Hill researchers will use several administration data sources (e.g., homicides, injuries, ED visits, school discipline reports) and survey measures (e.g., self-report aggression and violence) to assess changes among the three communities chosen.

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