YFE TIG Week: Lan To on Conducting Youth-Driven Research for a Youth-Led Summit

Hi, I am Lan To, Director of Postsecondary Initiatives at Good Shepherd Services in New York City. Each year, Good Shepherd hosts a Youth Summit for our participants in middle-school and high-school-aged programs, where they form teams to work on a research-based service learning project over a 4-month period.  Each team is asked to identify a critical issue of concern in their community (programs participate from across the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan), research it, develop a project to address it, and then create a presentation to share about their findings at the Youth Summit.

In alignment with our commitment to youth development and college and career readiness, the Youth Summit inspires the development of youth voice, youth leadership, civic engagement, networking, teamwork, and research and presentation skills.  It is a youth-led event run by a council of youth representatives from each participating program with the support of staff mentors and coaches.  We value this experience because it highlights our young participants’ ideas and values, helps develop a skill set for research-based project development, and inspires agents of social change within the various communities we work.  It is about youth teaching youth (and adults) about issues they deem important, and features their strategies on how to make a difference.


  • Youth-driven research is most effective when staff are well-versed in the service-learning process, but still flexible enough to allow youth to explore within the process.  We created a mentor professional learning community to help staff mentors in our various programs connect and share best practices.
  • Connecting youth teams to “topic experts” in the community helped enhance their research and overall project by making the research more tangible and the findings applicable to current work occurring in the field.  For example, one team focusing on the issue of “healthy relationships” was connected to a local domestic violence shelter.


The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Youth Focused Evaluation (YFE) TIG Week with our colleagues in the YFE AEA Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our YFE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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