Girls’ Experiences in a Positive Youth Development Sport Program: Developing a Participant-Centered Space

Kelly C. Johnston, Risto Marttinen, Ray N. Frederick, III, Vidya R. Bhat


School-age youth of low-income, urban communities frequently experience systemic inequities, such as limited access to healthy foods, lack of space for physical activity, higher drop-out rates, lower academic performance, and escalating rates of neighborhood violence. These inequities are often exacerbated for girls of color. After-school programs hold great potential for countering these issues, particularly when guided by a positive youth development (PYD) model. This qualitative study examined girls’ experiences in one after-school PYD program called REACH (Reflective Educational Approach to Character and Health). The authors discuss the ways in which the co-creation of a participant-centered space and interrelated connections between participants and program elements contributed to the girls’ experiences of the program in particular ways. These findings enhance understandings on how girls’ experiences shape relational dimensions of the PYD model, particularly PYD through sport. The authors conclude with implications for future research, suggesting enhancing the PYD through sport framework through activist-based research as a particularized means for further researching girls’ experiences in after-school PYD programs seeking interdisciplinary integration.


after-school; positive youth development; sport; girls; experiences

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