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Youth mental health issues on the rise: National Youth Advocacy and Resilience Research Center awards seed grants for faculty research in support of local youth advocacy and resiliency 

Youth across the U.S. are increasingly at risk for mental health issues, and Georgia Southern University is directly responding to the needs of local youth.

The University’s National Youth Advocacy and Resilience (NYAR) Research Center, which promotes scholarly and collaborative research with community partners to assist young people in overcoming conditions that may threaten their safety, health, emotional needs or intellectual development, recently awarded three seed grants to faculty for research that support youth advocacy and resiliency.

“The three NYAR Research Center innovative seed grants address community impact around trauma-informed mental health care, family engagement and rural community-based interventions and counseling, and all grants support the 2023 educational legislative initiatives, specifically in the area of school safety,” said Juliann Sergi McBrayer, Ed.D., Georgia Southern College of Education (COE) associate professor of educational leadership and NYAR Research Center co-director. “Given the increased demand for high-quality mental health services, we feel these research projects are vital to the well-being of our community.” 

The center is co-directed by Chad Posick, professor of criminal justice in the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2022 study revealed that:

— More than 1 in 3 high school students experienced poor mental health during the pandemic;
— Nearly half of students felt persistently sad or hopeless;
— A quarter of teens struggled with hunger;
— Two-thirds said they had difficulty with schoolwork;
— More than half of students experienced emotional abuse in their home.

Research funded by the seed grants aims to buffer impact on local youth while supporting current and relevant educational legislative initiatives.

COE professors Regina Rahimi, Ed.D., and Delores Liston, Ph.D., along with Waters College of Health Professions faculty April Garrity, Ph.D., and Tamerah Hunt, Ph.D., were awarded $8,300 for a joint research project, “Establishing a Trauma-Informed and Mental Health Research Collaborative.”

“I am thrilled to be part of a collaborative team that was awarded an NYAR Research seed grant,” said Rahimi. “This grant will allow four colleagues from various colleges on campus to build a community collaborative around trauma-informed practice. We hope this grant will kickstart this community project, which will have long-lasting implications and outcomes.” 

COE faculty Anne Valauri, Ph.D., and Jarvais Jackson, Ph.D., were awarded $9,502.02 for their research, “The State of Home: Understanding Georgia Teachers’ Conceptions and Practices of Family Engagement.”

“Securing this grant to gauge family engagement practices in classrooms around the state of Georgia will inform our instruction for future and current teachers; thus creating more engaged families,” said Jackson.

In addition, COE’s Pamela Wells, Ph.D., and Kristen Dickens, Ph.D., earned $6,167 for their collaborative work, “Steps to a Stronger Statesboro: Community-Based Interventions to Fortify a Rural Community.”

All research will include collaboration with undergraduate or graduate students, who will collect and analyze data in preparation for publication and dissemination regionally and nationally.

The NYAR Center is based on a dynamic complex systems view of five interacting areas, known as the 5H Model, that impact the academic, social and emotional well-being of youth that include: “head” for intellectual achievement and school leadership; “heart” for social and emotional skills; “hands” for safety and protection; “health” for physical and mental health; and “home” for family and community support.

The model guides the center’s decision-making in order to foster the intellectual, social, emotional and physical well-being of youth by providing educators, social workers, law enforcement, community leaders and other community constituents impacting youth with professional development, research support, and resource assistance across the 5H areas.


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