The overall objective of this proposal is to engage Black, Latinx, and Appalachian students and teachers across three schools in a community-based participatory research (CBPR) program focused on substance use and mental health in their local communities. Youth who collaborate as shared decision-makers in research are more likely to develop intrinsic interest in STEM research professions. By facilitating meaningful engagement in behavioral health research, we will reach our long-term goal of increasing economic, geographic, and racial diversity in the biomedical, behavioral, and clinical research workforce.
In order to increase diversity in STEM, there is a critical need to develop programs that meaningfully engage underrepresented groups in relevant STEM experiences. The overall objective of this proposal is to engage Black, Latinx, and Appalachian high school students and their teachers in a community-based participatory research (CBPR) program focused on substance use and mental health in their local communities. CBPR is an orientation to scientific inquiry that values shared decision-making and equitable collaboration between community and academic partners. In this case, CBPR will engage students in the role of scientist, with respected contextual expertise and perspective that will not only improve the quality of the research but also increases the potential for positive social change. The rationale for this proposal is that engaging students in CBPR to investigate substance use and mental health in their own communities will allow youth to experience how scientific practices and STEM skills can address real-world problems relevant to their communities. By facilitating meaningful engagement in behavioral health and addiction science research, we will reach our long-term goal of increasing STEM workforce diversity. Our program has three specific aims: (1) Promote students’ interest in and understanding of scientific research by engaging students as co- researchers in original scientific investigations of behavioral health in their local communities; (2) Develop students’ scientific research skills, scientific communication skills, researcher identities, and science self-efficacy by engaging students at each step of the research process including presentation and publication of findings; and (3) Develop high school teachers’ capacities to support youth participation in scientific research and scientific communication through interactive professional development. Expected outcomes for students include increases in STEM knowledge and skills, interest in scientific research, and STEM efficacy; and a desire to pursue a biomedical, behavioral or clinical research career. We will accomplish these aims through a cycle of activities that each year engages a new group of students as co-researchers in investigations of substance use and mental health in their local communities. Throughout the activity cycles, students will collaborate with and receive mentorship from our extremely diverse faculty team. Participation by approximately 286 students and 6-10 teachers over the course of the program will significantly impact the representation of Black, Latinx, and Appalachian individuals in behavioral, biomedical, and clinical research careers.