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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Service-based research to look at youth violence

In a project that combines learning and community service, New Mexico State University Assistant Professor Lisa Bond-Maupin and 30 of her students will conduct and evaluate a survey of Las Cruces youth to obtain viable statistics related to youth violence in the area.

The research project is the result of a request from Mayor Ruben Smith's Violence Steering Committee for current, workable statistics about youth violence in Las Cruces. The survey, designed by Bond-Maupin, will be administered to as many Las Cruces youth as possible by students in her special topics class focusing on violence.

"As a teacher, I have a commitment to the integration of research and service," said Bond-Maupin, a faculty member in NMSU's criminal justice department. "Conducting community-based, collaborative research on issues and problems of concern to local communities is important."

The survey was first introduced in December 2000 at the Mayor's Youth Summit on Violence but yielded a small response, so Bond-Maupin volunteered her students to finish the project during the spring semester.

"A much larger, more representative sample is needed to provide valuable results," Bond-Maupin said. "This is also an opportunity, as a university-based researcher, to offer my research skills in assisting people in the community with the collection of important information needed to do sound planning for violence prevention."

Bond-Maupin said her students are looking forward to working in the community.

"It's about maintaining bridges," she said. "We need to broaden people's impression of research. This is another chance to show the university as relevant to the community."

Based on areas of concern developed by community representatives, the survey asks youth about many areas including their perceived level of safety in a variety of settings, the extent to which gangs, drugs and violence are factors in their lives, their level of concern about violence, their perception of a working definition of violence and ideas about the causes of violence.

"The survey is designed to give the steering committee the type of information they identified that they needed in order to make recommendations to the mayor," she said. "People vary in their perceptions of youth violence, so this will help give a clearer, overall picture."

Although the survey is anonymous, it also evaluates each young person responding by asking about their internal and external supports, their involvement in extra curricular activities and their worries and dreams.

"We will be hearing from young people about their perceptions and experiences," Bond-Maupin said. "We have very little aggregate information about the attitudes and experiences of youth in this community."

Bond-Maupin and her students are still developing methods for dispersing the survey to a larger, more representative group. She said the director of alternative education programs in Las Cruces has demonstrated a commitment to the survey and the class will be approaching other agencies that work with youth to request participation.

"This collaborative research offers me the opportunity to give students firsthand experience with applied research and to make connections between course material and the experiences of youth in our community," Bond-Maupin said. "It also gives students the opportunity to participate in problem solving about violence, an important part of them feeling empowered as citizen scholars."

Results of the survey and recommendations regarding strategies for preventing violence in the community will be released in May 2001 to the steering committee.

Julie Hughes
Feb. 26, 2001