October 5, 2016

CU Boulder program working to end youth violence in Denver gets $5.9M grant

Sarah Kuta
The Daily Camera

After crowdfunding this spring, a University of Colorado program working to prevent youth violence in Denver will be able to continue its work for the next five years with a $5.9 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Steps to Success, a program facilitated by CU's Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, is continuing its work to reduce violence among children and young adults in Denver's Montbello neighborhood and will be able to expand into Northeast Park Hill.

This spring, the program sought donations through CU's crowdfunding platform as its initial $5.4 million in funding from the CDC ran out. The campaign, which ended in March, sought to raise $20,000 to cover the cost of one year of programming but brought in only $1,325.

The second round of funding from the CDC begins on Friday and will support a multidisciplinary team of researchers, scholars and community partners as they work on community-level strategies.

Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Michigan, the University of Louisville, the University of Chicago and John Hopkins University are also receiving CDC funding for violence prevention work.

"The grant itself really is to advance the science and the practice of youth violence prevention and to reduce youth violence in one or more geographically high-burden communities," said Shelli Brown, CU community site manager. "High burden means the rates of youth violence are higher than national averages, that the community has multiple empirically robust risk factors. Those neighborhoods met those thresholds."

Brown said Montbello is in the middle of a five-stage process known as Communities That Care, which includes engaging community members, building a community profile, collecting data and creating a community action plan.

The researchers will begin that process in Northeast Park Hill with the grant's funding.

Researchers hope to figure out which strategies work in reducing youth violence and someday create a road map for other communities.

"There's little information on what community-level prevention strategies work to reduce youth violence," Brown said. "We don't know what's going to 100 percent work."

Some of the programs currently being implemented in Montbello include Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies, or PATHS, which is a social-emotional learning program for elementary students. Another program works with families with children ages 10 to 14 to improve parenting and communication skills.

Getting the second round of funding from the CDC was important, Brown said, because researchers made an early commitment to residents of the Montbello neighborhood that they would keep working with them "no matter what."

"It is kind of a relief and we can all exhale and now the real work begins," Brown said. "What it meant was that we could keep the promises that we made."