Emerging Strategies in the Search for Effective University-Community Collaborations
Walsh, David S., JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Universities have come to realize and accept their responsibility to communities by collaborating with their neighboring schools and youth agencies (Benson, Harkavy, & Puckett, 11999). Although these university-community collaborations have taken place in areas such as math, science, and social studies, little attention has been given to the potential of physical-activity-based programs. Physical education is behind the times when it comes to forming university-community collaborations, but JOPERD has recently recognized the benefits of university-community collaborations in two articles promoting physical activity among adolescent girls (Ryan & Olasov, 2000; Watson, Poczwardowski, & Eisenman, 2000) and in articles connecting school physical education to the community (Cucina & McCormack, 2001; Cutforth, 2000).
Even though university-community collaborations often cost schools and youth agencies nothing, it can be difficult to get these institutions to provide the minimal support needed to create successful collaborations. Often these collaborations focus intensely on youth work but underestimate the importance of receiving necessary site support. Some of the difficulties and frustrations may include: administrators who fail to attend scheduled appointments, a lack of follow-through after a site commits to a collaboration, postponed starting dates, failure to hand out permission slips, poor youth-recruitment strategies, competition for use of reserved facilities by other programs, and program termination due to a site faculty's low regard for physical-activity-based programs. Certain sites are just not suitable for the attempted type of university-community collaboration. What are the signs that signal a poor site for collaboration? When is it time to leave a site? How does one maximize the chance of creating succe ssful long-term collaborations? These and similar questions require an examination of the subject of site support.
The Youth Leader Partnership
The Youth Leader Partnership (YLP) is a group of six physical education/kinesiology professors: Don Hellison, Nick Cutforth, James Kallusky, Tom Martinek, Melissa Parker, and Jim Stiehl. Although they work at six different universities in five states, they share a number of characteristics, including: (1) targeting children and youth who live in underserved communities; (2) developing, teaching in, and supervising extended day programs and in some cases, in-school programs; (3) capitalizing on the popularity of physical activity; (4) involving university students in their work; (5) engaging in applied research; and (6) using Don Hellison's (1995) personal and social responsibility model as their programs' focus. This group has accumulated a combined total of 70 years of direct experience with the development, implementation, and evaluation of physical-activity-based programs at schools and youth agencies (Hellison et al., 2000). This is the kind of experience that can provide insight into the various aspects of site support.
Based on several conversations, emails, and interviews with the YLP members, this article identifies four critical areas of site support and provides strategies for fostering each of them. The four site-support categories are contact people, policy, youth recruitment, and facilities.
The first and most significant category for successful collaboration involves having two levels of contact people at a site. The first level is the initial contact person (ICP), who is an administrator (e.g., principal, vice principal, athletic director). The second level is the secondary contact person (SCP), who has direct contact with youths (e.g., teacher, counselor, coach).
Each of the YLP members described the importance of having an ICP to create a collaboration, develop a systematic way of recruiting youths, help secure facilities, and handle any other logistical aspect that requires administrative assistance. …