Dr. Melissa Holt & Doctoral Student Katie Parodi to Present at Dane County Youth Assessment Summit

Dr. Melissa Holt, associate professor in BU Wheelock’s Counseling program, and Katie Parodi, a doctoral student earning her PhD in Counseling Psychology at BU Wheelock, will present at the upcoming Dane County Youth Assessment Summit, “Voices of Our Youth,”which will take place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on Friday, November 8, 2019.

“It’s a pretty unique summit that organizers put together,” says Dr. Holt. “All speakers are using the same data to look at different questions, and youth voices are integrated throughout the conference in multiple ways.”

The data examined comes from the Dane County Youth Assessment (DCYA), which since 1980 has gathered the opinions, concerns, attitudes, behaviors and experiences of youth in grades 7-12 in Dane County, WI. These surveys have provided educators, service providers, policy-makers and funding bodies with essential data. The 2018 Youth Assessment was led by the Dane County Youth Commission in partnership with the United Way of Dane County, Public Health Madison & Dane County, the City of Madison, seventeen public school districts and one private high school.

At the summit, Dr. Holt and Ms. Parodi will make their presentations to community members and youth. There will also be a dedicated time for youth panels to respond to the presentation and share their thoughts on the findings presented.  Youth will also speak to whether those findings are consistent with their own experiences or observations, and how this information can be used to empower youth and advocate for youth needs and resources.

“It brings us together so we can sit down and say ‘you’re a student here, what do you make of this data,” says Dr. Holt. “It’s exciting to hear how they would interpret it.”

“Their context, lived context is essential,” she continues. “I can take the data and analyze it, but they can take it and make sense [of it]. It’s unlikely that high school students are reading the published report, so this is a way for them to gain an understanding of these findings. And we’re curious about what they will say and how can they contribute to our understanding.”

Dr. Holt’s presentation, “Promoting well-being among transgender and gender non-conforming youth: Identifying salient contextual factors,” DCYA high school data (2012, 2015, 2018) to investigate the magnitude of mental health (i.e., depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and behaviors), health risk behaviors (substance use, sexual risk taking), and violence exposure (i.e., peer victimization, bias-based aggression, dating violence, child maltreatment) disparities for transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their variation over time.

“Dane County was one of the first to be asking questions about gender identity,” she says. “We can capitalize on the fact that they’ve asked these questions over years, different groups. Do those responses differ over time, from year to year context.”

Ms. Parodi’s presentation, “Recent Trends in Anxiety among Dane County Youth,” will review the national prevalence, core features, and impact of anxiety on youth before examining trends in the prevalence of anxiety among Dane County youth over the 2012, 2015 and 2018 survey years. It will discuss the changing rates of anxiety in specific demographic groups in Dane County, highlighting trends by age, grade level, biological sex, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity with specific attention to vulnerable groups.

Dr. Holt and Ms. Parodi will also contribute to the summit’s afternoon data jam, which asks groups of attendees (including youth participants) to break into separate groups to review specific sections of the DCYA survey data and then formulate new questions for research teams to investigate. Dr. Holt will be a part of the group focused on bullying and abuse experiences, while Ms. Parodi will be a part of the group focused on emotional and mental health.