The Center for Youth and Communities

Current Initiatives

FIRST Global Challenge - International STEM Education Participation

The Center for Youth and Communities is learning and evaluation partner for DEKA in their FIRST Global Challenge, a competition for future STEM leaders from high schools around the world, emphasizing the importance, excitement, and applicability of STEM education. The Center is working with the initiative to develop their logic model and evaluation plan.

FIRST® (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Longitudinal Study

For nearly 20 years, the Center has served as the evaluation partner for FIRST, a national organization that promotes involvement in STEM through after-school robotics competitions. The initial Center study was a retrospective study of participants in the FIRST Robotics Competition that tracked alumni from 20 teams into college and compared them on key measures, such as college course-taking and majors, internships, and community service involvement, to a matched set of students drawn from a national US Department of Education database. Subsequent studies have focused on FIRST Robotics programs targeted to underserved communities, the FIRST LEGO®  League program (for middle school students), and the FIRST Tech Challenge®  program, a new high school initiative, with a focus on both program outcomes and implementation in in-school and after-school settings.

The Center completed the 10-year, quasi-experimental longitudinal study aimed at assessing long term program impacts on student involvement in STEM education and careers.  The outcomes were particularly strong for first women.

Check out the FIRST longitudinal study data summary (.pdf) presented to approx. 80 FIRST staff in May 2024.

In 2024, led by Senior Scientist, Dr. Tatjana Meschede, the Center is planning a new longitudinal study with FIRST to capture new programming and engage a new generation of students.

USAID/AMREF Health Africa, Integrated Youth Activity-Kefeta

The Center for Youth and Communities is leading a 27-month, USAID funded project in Ethiopia, Integrated Youth Activity – Kefeta. In partnership with AMREF Health Africa, the Center team is focused on capacity building to strengthen student career readiness at 22 Ethiopian universities and Technical Vocational (TVET) colleges.

The goals of the project are: to enhance higher education system supports to increase youth employability through market-relevant skills development, to develop capacity-building within universities and TVET colleges to improve academic excellence and expand career development services for their students; and to identify opportunities for meaningful employer engagement in higher education.

New Profit Partnership Evaluation

New Profit – Portfolios

The Center for Youth and Communities is evaluation and learning partner with New Profit, a venture philanthropy intermediary, to understand and assess the value and characteristics of New Profit's portfolio partners.


Accelerate the Future - Evaluation of Licensed Mental Health Counselor Degree Attainment Initiative

The Center for Youth and Communities is engaged in the second phase of an evaluation and learning partnership with funder Accelerate the Future to study the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) program currently based at Framingham State University (FSU). Working with the three initial pilot organizations and extending to more, the Center team is learning about the experiences of the coordinator programs and providing a learning framework for the LMHC future growth, sustainability, and impact.

Smart from the Start Evaluation

Smart from the Start (Smart) is a family support and community engagement organization that provides a wide array of programming, tools and resources, designed to meet families where they are and engage with them across the lifespan.

The Center began working with Smart on project Phase I to help digitize community needs assessment survey responses and interviews with Smart stakeholders. The Center continues the partnership with Phase 2, a three-year evaluation of Smart that aims to address the challenges highlighted in Phase I and build the capacity of Smart to assess its programming and support program and resource development.

Smart has locations in Boston, DC, and more recently, Atlanta and Philadelphia.