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Towson University

Name of OMH Grant Program:  Youth Empowerment Program
Initial Year of Funding:  FY 2009
Project Period (Number of Years):  3


  1. Grantee Organization Name:  Towson University
  2. Organization Address (Street, City, State, Zip):  8000 York Road, Towson, Maryland 21252
  3. Organization website URL (if any): Exit Disclaimer
  4. Brief Description of the Organization:  Towson University is a metropolitan university with outreach programs in Cherry Hill, Maryland. The Cherry Hill Learning Zone Initiative was initiated in 2005 in collaboration with the community, reflecting that academic success and economic development were intertwined.  The Initiative has now expanded to include other academic and non-academic programs.


  1. Title of Grant Project: Partners in Academic and Life Success (PALS)
  2. Amount of OMH Award:  $300,000
  3. Name of Project Director:   Chao Lu


The Partners in Academic and Life Success (PALS) project sought to provide participants with academic enrichment, career exposure and exploration, mentoring with university students and community volunteers in the position of positive role models, individualized goal-setting and monitoring with family input, and opportunities to learn and embrace healthy behaviors and lifestyles.  The goal of the project was to encourage and reinforce healthy life choices, build resiliency against the development of unhealthy and harmful behaviors as students transition to middle school. The project provided an integrated program of activities, experiences, and opportunities for growth to a cohort of 5th grade African American students in the Cherry Hill community of Baltimore City. Program activities were offered three afternoons weekly after school, one to two Saturdays per month, and at a five-week summer program on the campus of Towson University.  The typical format of the after-school sessions included a healthy snack coupled with age-appropriate nutrition information, work with tutors in a Homework Lab, and group activities addressing physical fitness, emotional/social health, and life skills. 

The PALS project expected to see a reduction in risky behaviors, positive lifestyle changes, improved psychosocial outcomes (e.g. social bonding, personal and social competence), and collaborative relationships between community partners. The program expected that students would also demonstrate an increase in self-awareness and interest in career exploration, enhanced personal development and wellness, and increased cultural awareness and appreciation.

The PALS program evaluation was structured to demonstrate alignment between identified problems and goals, as well as usage of evidence-based practices by which to conduct program activities. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used. Quantitative data collection methods included clinical fitness measures (height, weight, body fat percentage, waist and hip circumference, and body mass index), the Individual Protective Factors Index (IPFI) survey, CATCH Nutrition survey, the PACER test (20-meter shuttle run for aerobic capacity), the Camper Growth Index (CGI), the Adolescent Self-Regulatory Inventory, the perceived environment related to physical activity questionnaire, and the physical activity preferences and intentions questionnaire. The evaluation team used a pre-/post-survey design, including follow-up surveys, and a comparison group to measure changes from pre- to post-intervention and to examine the effectiveness of the intervention. Qualitative data was collected in the form of in-depth interviews conducted with PALS youth, parents, and other stakeholders within the schools and community.

Key program findings reported throughout the grant period:

  • Reduced risky behaviors. There were decreases in stealing, damaging property, arguing with family members, and exposure to others’ high risk behaviors through the PALS after-school program.
  • Produced positive lifestyle changes. The grantee saw increases in club activity (e.g. Scouts, “Y”, Campfire Girls) through the PALS after-school program.
  • Improved psychosocial outcomes.There were modest, but non-significant, increases in self-control, positive outlook, and confidence through the PALS after-school program. There were statistically significant increases in positive identity, social skills, independence, and decision-making through the PALS summer camp program. There was also significant increase in three of the six domains of self-regulation:  inhibiting emotion, monitoring, and persevering, which indicated an improvement in the ability of youth to self-regulate, through five weekly activity-based learning sessions as part of the PALS after-school program.
  • Facilitated collaborative relationships between community partners.Eleven partnerships were established.


  • Awareness - Increase awareness of the significance of health disparities, their impact on the nation, and the actions necessary to improve health outcomes for racial, ethnic, and other disparities population.
  • Health System and Life Experience: Improve health and healthcare outcomes for racial and ethnic minorities and for underserved populations and communities.
  • Cultural and Linguistic Competency: Improve cultural and linguistic competency and the diversity of the health-related workforce.


  • AH-2 Increase the proportion of adolescents who participate in extracurricular and out-of-school activities
  • AH-3.1 Increase the proportion of adolescents who have an adult in their lives with whom they can talk about serious problems
  • AH-3.2 Increase the proportion of parents who attend events and activities in which their adolescents participate
  • AH-5.3.2 Increase the proportion of 8th grade students whose reading skills are at or above the proficient achievement level for their grade
  • AH-5.4.2 Increase the proportion of 8th grade students whose mathematics skills are at or above the proficient achievement level for their grade
  • NWS-14 Increase the contribution of fruits to the diets of the population aged 2 years and older
  • NWS-15.1 Increase the contribution of dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and legumes to the diets of the population aged 2 years and older
  • NWS-15.2 Increase the contribution of dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, and legumes to the diets of the population aged 2 years and older
  • NWS-16 Increase the contribution of whole grains to the diets of the population aged 2 years and older

Content Last Modified: 1/3/2014 2:50:00 PM
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