"It’s more like we want to come to this": Program Engagement in a Sexual Health Youth Leadership Council


  • Christyl Yensuahte-Ardina Wilson Georgia State University
  • Scot Seitz Georgia State University
  • Kimberly Broomfield-Massey Emstar Research, Inc.
  • Lucy Whitehead Georgia State University
  • Julia Mangia Georgia State University
  • Keri McDonald Pridgeon The Center for Black Women's Wellness
  • Gabriel Kuperminc Georgia State University




engagement, youth leadership council, sexual health, self-determination theory


Participants in the Looking Out for the Youth (L.O.F.T.Y) Crew, a sexual-health youth leadership council, reported and exhibited high engagement within the program. Understanding program characteristics that contribute to engagement is important because engagement is associated with positive outcomes for youth and program sustainability. According to self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000), programs that meet youth’s needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence are more likely to facilitate sustained engagement. This qualitative study examined youth perceptions about the components of the program that contributed to engagement. We conducted focus group and interviews with L.O.F.T.Y Crew participants (N=42). With self-determination theory as a framework, we analyzed the data using a directed content analysis approach. Our analyses yielded five themes related to program engagement: ownership, youth voice, meaningful peer connection, adults as mentors, and increased knowledge and skills. Overall, the results provide support for self-determination theory. Importantly, by identifying specific action steps that can be implemented to increase youth engagement, this qualitative study can help practitioners translate theory to action.


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