Current Community Engagement Fellows

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2019 Community Engagement Fellowships

Identifying and Addressing Youth Mental Health Needs in Southeast Raleigh
Caroline Chandler, Maternal Child Health
Community partner: Melvin Jackson, Southeast Raleigh Promise
Faculty mentor: Rohit Ramaswamy

In 2016, North Carolina (NC) ranked last among states leaving youth untreated for mental health disorders, with 72.2% percent of youth with diagnosed depression, anxiety, ADHD or another mental health condition did not receive treatment or counseling from a mental health professional.  The 2019 NC Child Health Report Card reported that the ratio of school counselors to students was 1:378 in the 2014-2015 school year. Other data from the 2019 NC Child Health Report Card suggest that racial and ethnic minority youth may have disproportionately poor access to essential mental health services. This project aims to identify core components desired by youth in a peer-to-peer support program to promote mental health support in the majority minority Southeast Raleigh community. This work is guided by community based participatory research principles and builds off of existing work in this community. Through a previous Photovoice project and youth-led community forum, youth have identified social-emotional and mental health support as a primary need in their community and suggested a peer-to-peer support program model. Chandler will use in-depth interviews to gain a better understanding of the specific components youth are interested in as part of a peer-to-peer mental health support program.

Mold Prevention Tool Lending Library in Robeson County
Diamond Holloman; Environment, Ecology and Energy
Arbor Quist, Epidemiology
Aleah Walsh, Environmental Sciences and Engineering
Community partner: Naeema Muhammad, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
Faculty mentor: Courtney Woods

In September 2018, Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina and caused disastrous flooding. Robeson County, one of the poorest and most racially diverse counties in North Carolina, was hit especially hard by Hurricane Florence. Focus group participants at the Hurricane Florence Survivors Summit mentioned that they were especially concerned about mold problems in their homes and the associated respiratory issues. Many residents reported having been denied for federal aid to assist with mold remediation. For this project, the team first will use existing information to assess the potential risk mold poses to North Carolina residents. They will conduct semi-structured interviews with key informants in Robeson County to understand how communities are handling mold issues and what resources are most needed. They will then build a tool lending library in Robeson County based on community needs. This will give community members access to tools to prevent mold and to mitigate the health effects of living with mold until it can be professionally remediated.  Data will also be collected on community members’ experiences and barriers they have encountered as they have dealt with mold in their homes and have requested remediation assistance.

Land Distribution and Farmers’ Indebtedness: Case Study of Andhra Pradesh, India
Sandeep Kandikuppa; Environment, Ecology and Energy
Community partner: Foundation for Ecological Security in Anand, India
Faculty mentor: Clark Gray

Indian farmers are facing the problem of rising indebtedness, with a large number of standing loans taken at high interest rates. Data from the government of India indicates that three out of four farmers today are indebted, a 25 percentage point increase since 1992. Rising indebtedness has impoverished farmers, forced them to undertake distress migration and compelled more than 200,000 farmers to commit suicide over the past decade. Through the years, India and the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) have undertaken land distribution programs to address the twin-problems of poverty and acute indebtedness among farmers in general and landless farmers in particular. Through this project, Kandikuppa will study the impact of land distribution programs on the level of indebtedness in farmer households in Anantapur and Chittoor, two districts of AP, India.  Kandikuppa will partner with Foundation for Ecological Security to interact with farmers to understand the shifts that a land title brought about for them on the indebtedness front. He will lean on literature from political economy and political ecology and combine household surveys with life history calendars to guide discussions with farmers.

Building Financial Capability of Emancipated Foster Care Youth in Durham, NC
Stephanie L. Kennedy, Social Work and Maternal and Child Health
Community partner: Center for Community Self-Help
Faculty mentor: Rainier Masa

Youth exiting the foster care system face disproportionate financial barriers while working toward self-sufficiency and independence in young adulthood. Financial institutions, products and services can help build financial capability in emancipated foster care youth yet are often inaccessible or inadequately designed to meet this population’s unique characteristics, vulnerabilities and needs. To address this gap, this community-based qualitative research study aims to understand the attitudes, perceptions and needs of emancipated foster care youth in Durham, NC related to financial capability. Working closely with our community partners, the Center for Community Self-Help and the LIFE Skills Foundation, Kennedy will engage emancipated foster care youth in semi-structured focus group discussions and creative, youth-friendly asset-mapping to explore their understanding of financial capability as a concept and in practice. Information obtained will be coded and analyzed to generate themes relating to key aspects of financial capability. Themes include financial knowledge and skills, self-efficacy and environmental access to financial products and services. Findings from this primary data collection will be used to provide targeted recommendations for community organizations and financial institutions that wish to strengthen or implement services that build financial capability in emancipated foster care youth.

A Community-based HIV Prevention Program for Young Men Who Have Sex with Men in Tianjin, China
Chunyan Li, Health Behavior
Community partner: Mr. Jie Yang, Director of Tianjin Shenlan Public Health Counseling Service Center
Faculty mentor: Kathryn E. Muessig

The HIV epidemic disproportionately affects men who have sex with men (MSM) in China. Li’s previous research with Chinese MSM living with HIV indicated that many lacked social support in accessing HIV care and had little motivation to learn about HIV before diagnosis. In Tianjin, MSM account for 75 percent of new infections annually and for over 97 percent of new infections among college students. However, there are a lack of evidence-based HIV intervention programs. MSM’s needs and preferences for such programs also remain less studied. This project aims to investigate unmet needs among young MSM (younger than 30 years old) in Tianjin and evaluate a community-based intervention program through collaboration with a local community-based MSM organization (Tianjin Shenlan Public Health Counseling Service Center). Li will work with Shenlan and young MSM volunteers to design a qualitative research plan, develop in-depth interview guides, recruit participants, evaluate Shenlan’s current consulting-based intervention and develop a plan to improve intervention strategies and contents to meet young MSM’s needs. The project will offer opportunities for Shenlan staff to be trained in using qualitative methods for program evaluation.

West Badin, North Carolina Community Survey – Aluminum Smelting Work Exposures and Health
Libby McClure, Epidemiology
Community Partners: Naeema Muhammad, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
Faculty mentor: David Richardson

This collaborative research project documents structural racism manifested in work exposures and health in Badin, North Carolina, a segregated aluminum town. Badin housed one of the nation’s first aluminum smelting facilities, operated by Alcoa in 1917-2007. The facility led to environmental and occupational exposures to hazardous agents, including carcinogens. Residences and jobs were racially segregated, and the aluminum smelting facility and its dumping sites are located in West Badin, the Black side of town. The Concerned Citizens of West Badin formed in 2013 to advocate for contamination remediation in their community. Since then, they have raised former workers’ reports that the worst jobs were most often assigned to Black workers. In partnership with the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, this project will develop and record surveys documenting the work exposures and health of current and former residents of West Badin. The goal of the project is to examine how racism has shaped working conditions and related diseases and deaths. It supplements McClure’s dissertation research, which will quantify the role of job segregation in creating disease disparities in Badin.

Facilitating Access and Inclusion for Visitors with Disabilities at a Local Zoological Park
Jordan McNeill, Applied Developmental Sciences and Special Education
Susan Szendrey, Allied Health Sciences
Community partner: Conservators Center
Faculty mentor: Nancy Bagatell

Zoological parks offer valuable opportunities for leisure, enjoyment and education to their local communities. Unfortunately, there are often barriers that can limit meaningful access and inclusion for individuals with disabilities. This project involves a partnership with the Conservators Center, a zoological park in Mebane, NC, to facilitate the development of supports and resources to foster improved experiences of guests with disabilities. Results of previously-completed interviews, surveys and focus groups indicate a need for staff training, clear policies and procedures and tangible resources to assist with providing accessible educational experiences. The next phase of the project will involve development and implementation of training and resources and analysis of both staff and visitor outcomes. In collaboration with the Conservators Center, McNeill and Szendrey hope to expand meaningful participation for all visitors, regardless of ability or disability status.

The Struggle Towards Abolition Education: (Re)Thinking Chapel Hill-Carrboro Education
Carlos Serrano, Geography
Community partner: Kim Talikoff, We Are They
Faculty mentor: Sara H. Smith

Chapel Hill’s town motto is the “Southern Slice of Heaven.” The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) system is rated the best in North Carolina, and yet Black students experience the largest achievement gap in the country and Latinx students the third highest gap. These disparities are also evident in disciplinary actions; during the 2015-2016 school year, Black students in the district (only 11 percent of the district’s enrollment) were 10 times more likely to get a short-term suspension compared to their white classmates. Serrano’s current research asks, “why are the “best” school districts working at the expense of Black and brown student success?” Serrano seeks to advance critical geographic research by understanding how racial, class and gender hierarchies operate in Chapel Hill-Carrboro’s liberal multicultural “best school district.” With Chapel Hill-Carrboro as the study site, Serrano explores why racial inequities have persisted in CHCCS, despite efforts to address them, and how CHCCS schools are seen as a site to maintain or transform lived uneven realities. Chapel Hill teaches that school rankings mean little when students live two different realities based on racial identity and socio-economic standing.

Harms-In-Ayllu: Healing after forced sterilization in an Andean community
Lucia Stavig, Anthropology
Community partner: Hilaria Supa Huaman
Faculty mentor: Florence Babb

This project will take place over five months in the district of Anta (near Cusco, Peru) and will document forcibly sterilized Quechua women’s use of ancestral medicine and spiritual ceremony to heal from illnesses related to their state-sponsored sterilizations, taken place between 1995 and 2000. Some of the illnesses experienced by these women do not have a biological pathology but are rather spiritual and cultural in nature. Illness in the Andes is understood to stem from imbalances between the biological, social and cosmic realms related to the violent interruption of social, moral and cultural practices engendered by forced sterilization and other forms of state violence. After three years of collaboration with indigenous women leaders, Stavig has been invited to document the means Quechua women are using to heal their bodies, minds, hearts and spirits in an effort to share this knowledge with the approximately 10,000 forcibly sterilized women in Peru. As Indigenous ways of being and knowing are violently unauthorized by the state and large swaths of Peruvian society, that indigenous women are turning to ancestral knowledges to heal on the land serves as a defense of territory and identity, as does sharing this knowledge.