Introducing the Center for Social Justice Youth Development Research

March 23, 2023

Directed by Aishia Brown, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, the Center for Social Justice Youth Development Research (CSJYDR) was established to advance the research on social justice youth development by creating mechanisms to inform the professional development of youth workers and promote transformational change alongside marginalized and vulnerable youth and their communities. The CSJYDR’s mission is resonating with funders and partners. Since 2020, they have secured more than $800,000 in grants, philanthropic gifts, and contracts from organizations such as the Jewish Heritage fund, Metro United Way, The Humana Foundation, and Louisville Metro Government.

The CSJYDR’s primary audiences are youth serving organizations, practitioners, youth, and young adults. Their portfolio of community-based research and evaluation initiatives seek to educate, enhance youth supports, and promote youth equity and well-being. For instance, they have been doing ground-breaking work to identify guiding ethical principles and competencies for engaging in social justice youth development. The center also serves as a hub of learning and practice. Numerous master’s and doctoral students from SPHIS and the Kent School of Social Work and Family Sciences are engaged with center activities and completing applied practice experiences.

The center’s research manager, Rebecka Bloomer, PhD, MSSW, provided information about a few of the center’s current projects:

Social Justice Youth Development (SJYD) Certificate Program: The SJYD certificate program provides training and resources to youth development professionals in Louisville in a small cohort-style learning environment across 30 weeks. The first semester focuses on working with participants in racial affinity groups and engaging in racial processing and healing. The second semester works with participants to better understand the SJYD perspective and how to engage youth while centering concepts of equity and cultural humility. The goal of the program is to influence perspectives and interactions of youth workers with their organizations and youth participants, positively change self-reported attitudes and knowledge about healing centered, anti-racist approaches, and positively change workers’ self-reported employment outcome attitudes for providers from historically excluded backgrounds. The program launched in Fall 2022 and the first cohort (48 people) will complete the certificate in April 2023. The second cohort of participants and organizations will begin in August 2023.

Social Action Mini-Grants: Metro United Way (MUW) is partnering with the center to empower Louisville youth and SJYD program participants through Social Action Projects. Mini-grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded to develop and elevate youth voice as active citizens and agents of change within their communities. The CSJYDR was instrumental in creating the application and scoring rubric for these grants. Additionally, MUW has designated mini-grant funding for SJYD certificate participants, offering them the opportunity to demonstrate learning through experiential projects with youth.

Youth Advisory Board: The purpose of the center’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) is to engage youth, ages 16 to 22, with historically excluded identities in programming that promotes the integration of social justice youth development into Louisville’s youth development sector. This includes spurring youth-led educational endeavors addressing policies that impact youth, families, and communities of color for youth serving organizations and youth development professionals. The YAB began with eight students who helped shape the SJYD certificate program. The second cohort began in the winter of 2022. Their focus has been on the Metro United Way’s social action projects and reviewing the mini-grant proposals submitted by local organizations.

Social Workers in the Library (SWIL): The SWIL project focuses on providing supplemental health and resource navigation for immigrant, refugee, and under resourced populations at the Iroquois Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library. In coordination with community partners, SWIL providers and master’s level social work students serve clients using trauma informed and culturally responsive practices. The program acts as a model to fill gaps in service provision, enhance services provided to under resourced communities, and bolster culturally responsive skills and practices of the immigrant and refugee provider workforce. Additionally, the SWIL project team has initiated a community needs assessment to better understand the needs of the community served and provide responsive programming options. The survey is available in 6 languages and is currently open to the community. Complete the survey.

For more information about any of these initiatives, please email Dr. Rebecka Bloomer at

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