Seed Funding 2011

Youth-Nex has awarded funding to five teams of researchers who will study a range of issues from celebratory drinking interventions to reproductive health among sexual minority youth.

Reducing Risky Behaviors As Associated with 21st Birthdays

PI: Ellen J. Bass, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Systems and Information Engineering Co-PIs: Susan E. Bruce, M.Ed., Director, Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, & Erik W. Gunderson, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry & Neurobehavioral Sciences and Medicine

Academic and Student Affairs Partnership for Substance Abuse Prevention: Reducing Risky Behaviors Associated with 21st Birthdays

This research project builds on the experience of Student Health’s Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention in developing and evaluating celebratory drinking interventions. The project goal is to increase protective behaviors, and reduce alcohol consumption, estimated blood alcohol concentrations (eBAC), and negative consequences associated with 21st birthday celebrations.

On college campuses across the country, high-risk drinking, and the negative consequences associated with it, is a national concern.  Between 10% and 30% of college students experience direct or second-hand negative effects of alcohol use each year (Perkins 2002b).  In 2004, the NIAAA approved the following definition of binge drinking: “a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram percent or above. For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.” BACs can be estimated using a formula that uses data on weight, number of drinks, time spent drinking and gender (Widmark, 1932, 1981). Binge drinking on college campuses is associated with adverse academic outcomes including lower grade point averages, suspensions, poor performance on tests and papers, falling behind in schoolwork, and missing classes (Musgrave-Marquart et al., 1997; Presley et al., 1996; Vickers et al., 2004; Wechsler et al., 2002). 

High-risk drinking associated with 21st birthday celebrations

At 21st birthday celebrations, as many as 90% of celebrants report consuming alcohol, 61% attain BAC levels above the legal limit of .08, and 23% reach dangerously high BAC levels (above 0.25) (Neighbors et al., 2009).  The practice of consuming 21 drinks for a 21st birthday has been termed extreme drinking and continues to be a serious problem as students die as a result of consuming 21 or more standard drinks on students’ 21st birthdays (Hembroff et al., 2007). While not all students are drinking to extreme during 21st birthday celebrations, data consistently show an increased level of alcohol consumption during 21st birthday celebrations (Lewis et al., 2009; Wechsler et al., 1999).

At U.Va., Gordie Center data indicate that students misperceive how much alcohol their peers consume during 21st birthday celebrations.  U.Va. data from the 2008-09 academic year indicate that on average, students consume 7.8 drinks during their own 21st birthday celebration, which is an increase of three drinks over their typical Saturday night drinking.  On average, these 21 year olds believe that most other students consumed 8.6 drinks during their birthday celebrations (Incerto et al., 2011).  

The social norms approach involves correcting misperceptions about the prevalence of high-risk alcohol behaviors (Perkins 1997; Perkins & Berkowitz 1986).  Numerous studies document that most students overestimate actual prevalence of substance use, which is associated with higher rates of hazardous personal alcohol use (Berkowitz 1997; Guha et al., 2007; Kypri & Langley 2003; Perkins 1995, 1997, 2002; Perkins & Wechsler 1996; Prentice & Miller 1993; Sher et al., 2001; White et al., 2008).


Spring 2013 Youth-Nex Works in Progress presentation on findings (Works in Progress Archive). AUDIO 1 & AUDIO 2 SLIDES.

The Role Executive Function Plays in the Driving-specific Risk Behaviors of Novice Drivers

PI: Daniel J. Cox, M.D., Professor of Psychiatric Medicine and Internal Medicine Co-Investigators: Ronald E. Reeve, Ph.D., Professor of Education and Director, Curry Programs in Clinical and School Psychology, Joseph P. Allen, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, John Sirard, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Curry School of Education, Richard Warren, Director of Albemarle High School, & Arthur L. Weltman, Ph.D., Professor of Kinesiology

Researchers will investigate the impact of cognitive motor function that impairs driving safety, medical self-management, social functioning and quality of life, and the extent to which such impacts can be reversed with specific and specialized rehabilitation using virtual reality driving simulation.

A major factor that could successfully differentiate adolescents at low/high risk for unsafe driving (and other practices) could be the delayed development of executive functioning (EF), which may underlie the poor judgment that contributes to collision and impaired driving ability and safety. EF is the ability to employ working memory allowing us to anticipate consequences, inhibit impulses, plan ahead, problem solve, and be creative in our interaction with the world. EF ability also changes over time, demonstrating an inverse curve  with maturation of the prefrontal cortex in adolescence and young adulthood and a subsequent decline with prefrontal atrophy in older age, mirroring driving ability and safety. Measures of EF have been associated with simulated driving performance on-road driving performance, and a history of vehicular collisions. An interesting and exciting caveat is that there is an apparent dose-response relationship between the development/maintenance of EF and amount of physical activity and fitness among both youth and seniors.

This multi-departmental proposal would be the first known longitudinal investigation of the role EF plays in both general risk-taking and driving-specific risk behaviors of novice drivers, as well as the role physical activity and fitness play in the maturation of EF ability.  This study will involve quantifying general and driving-specific EF, affinity to general and driving-specific risk-taking, and physical activity and fitness in adolescents ready to secure their independent driver’s license. Subjects would then be followed through their first six months of independent driving, documenting the occurrence of vehicular collisions and citations and other risky behaviors.


Fall 2011 Youth-Nex Works in Progress presentation on findings (Works in Progress Archive). AUDIO 1 & AUDIO 2 & SLIDES.

Languages Across Borders (LAB): Building Positive Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Networks in High Schools

PIs: Amanda K. Kibler, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Curry School of Education, Allison Atteberry, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow, Christine N. Hardigree, graduate student, & April S. Salerno, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Curry School of Education

Schools typically offer adolescent immigrant students classified as English language learners (ELLs) restricted opportunities to fully develop their linguistic repertoires and academic potential. Adolescent ELLs are often isolated from English-dominant students through tracking and other means, but supportive peer interactions between these groups of students are correlated with improved academic engagement and achievement for adolescent ELLs and their English-dominant peers.

The Language Across Borders (LAB) pilot project is designed to improve linguistic, academic, and psychosocial outcomes for both Spanish-dominant learners of English and English-dominant learners of Spanish through an extracurricular dual language program. Specifically, it aims to increase ELLs’ social connections with peers and school while also increasing opportunities for Spanish-dominant and English-dominant students to develop bilingual expertise and positive youth development outcomes through strong school-based relationships.


Salerno, A., & Kibler, A. (2017). Building bridges: A dual-language experience for high school students. In E. Barbian, G. C. Gonzales, & P. Mejía (Eds.), Rethinking bilingual education: Welcoming home languages in our classrooms (pp. 136-142). Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools.

Kibler, A., Atteberry, A., Hardigree, C., & Salerno, A. (2015). Languages across borders: Social network development in an adolescent two-way dual language program.Teachers College Record, 117(8), 1-48.

Kibler, A., Salerno, A., & Hardigree, C. (2014). “More than being in a class”: Adolescents’ ethnolinguistic and social insights in a two-way dual-language program. Language and Education, 28(3), 251-275.

Spring 2012 Youth-Nex Works in Progress presentation on preliminary findings (Works in Progress Archive). AUDIO 1 & AUDIO 2 & AUDIO 3.

Reproductive Health Among Sexual Minority Youth

PI: Charlotte J. Patterson, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology

This study will assess reproductive health among sexual minority youth, and to understand risk and protective factors for reproductive health among members of this vulnerable population.

Many of the problems experienced by sexual minority youth - such as family problems, problems in the peer group, victimization and bullying - have been well documented (IOM, 2011), but other potential problem areas are less well known. For example, some research with lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents’ sexual behavior has found early and risky patterns of sexual behavior among sexual minority youth (IOM, 2011). Most surprising to many observers is evidence among sexual minority youth of early and risky sexual behavior with opposite sex partners. In fact, the results of some studies suggest that rates of pregnancy among sexual minority girls may be as high or even higher than those among heterosexual girls (Saewyc et al., 1999). One study reported that sexual minority adolescent boys were more likely than heterosexual boys to say that they had fathered a child (Saewyc et al., 1998). Many existing studies suffer from a number of problems, however, such as small samples, non-representative sampling, and use of non-standard assessment techniques. Despite the significance of reproductive health outcomes, and despite clear evidence of increased mental health problems among lesbian and gay youth, only one study of a representative sample of sexual minority youth in the United States has yet been reported, and it was based on data from a single state that are now more than twenty years old (Saewyc et al., 1999).

This work will allow creation of a comprehensive, contemporary profile of sexual and reproductive behavior among sexual minority as compared with heterosexual youth in the United States. In this initial phase, using data from the NSFG, we seek to document sexual and reproductive health difficulties among sexual minority youth. NIH funding will then be sought to understand more fully the risk and protective factors associated with sexual and reproductive health among these high-risk youngsters.


Tornello, S. L., Riskind, R. G., & Patterson, C. J. (2013). Sexual Orientation and Sexual and Reproductive Health Among Adolescent Young Women in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health, 1-9.

A Study of Positive Youth Development Among High School Students

PI: Joanna Lee Williams, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Curry School of Education

This study will examine whether participation in an inter-group dialogue program during the school year enhances strengths conceptualized in the “positive youth development” paradigm and diversity-related values, and promotes ethnic identity exploration among high school students. This will be accomplished by conducting a pilot evaluation of the Youth Roundtables Program at Charlottesville High School (CHS). Youth Roundtables is an after-school program run by staff from the Stillwater Institute for Social Justice (appendix A). Students participate in an intergroup dialogue process facilitated by the Stillwater staff and then are trained to become IGD facilitators themselves. Given evidence that after-school programs in general and IGD programs in particular may promote positive outcomes in youth, this study will compare Youth Roundtables participants to a similar group of students to assess changes over the school year in the five domains of PYD as well as in other domains believed to be affected by IGD, including racial/ethnic identity exploration, cross-racial friendships, and communication skills.  The Stillwater Institute’s mission for Youth Roundtables is to “provide education and training to encourage citizens to live up to their potential as social justice advocates”; therefore, this study is well-aligned with the Youth-Nex emphasis on engaged citizenship.  Given the theoretical framework of PYD, at a secondary level, the proposed project may also provide insight into risk prevention during adolescence.


Spring 2012 Youth-Nex Works in Progress presentation on preliminary findings (Works in Progress Archive). AUDIO 1 & AUDIO 2 & SLIDES.

Past Seed Funding Projects

  • 2018

    See more details about the projects here.
    Press release about funded studies.

    Roots and Wings: Promoting Positive Youth Development and Educational Equity in Charlottesville Middle Schools through Integrated Music Programming
    PIs: Emily Morrison & Jessika Bottiani

    Engaging Conflict-affected Youth in Thailand’s Deep South for the Promotion of Peace and Wellbeing
    PI: Amanda Nguyen

    The Voice Project: Facilitating Youth Voice & Critical Social Analysis Among Black Boys in their Transition to High School
    PIs: Chauncey Smith & Daniel Fairley

    Evaluating the Impact of Youth-Police Dialogues on Police: A Seed Funding Proposal for Survey Development
    PIs: Rachel Wahl & Jessika Bottiani

  • 2012

    See more details about the projects and results here.
    Press release about funded studies on UVA Today and Curry's website.
    Original RFP.

    Impact of School Architecture on School Practices and Healthy Eating
    PIs: Matthew Trowbridge & Terry T-K Huang

    Promoting Positive Youth Development Through Homegrown Video Production
    PIs: Michael J. Kennedy & Dewey G. Cornell

    Engaging Students in Environmental Service: Development and Early Phase Research on a Community Service Learning Intervention
    PI: Sara E. Rimm-Kaufman Co-Investigator: Eileen Merritt

    Understanding and Supporting Safe Driving of ADHD Teenagers with Auditory Feedback
    PI: Nathan Ka Ching Lau Co-PI: Daniel J. Cox

  • 2011

    See more details about the projects and results here.
    Press release about funded studies.
    Original RFP.

    Reducing Risky Behaviors Associated With 21st Birthdays
    PI: Ellen J. Bass Co-PIs: Susan E. Bruce & Erik W. Gunderson

    The Role Executive Function Plays in the Driving-specific Risk Behaviors of Novice Drivers
    PI: Daniel J. Cox Co-Investigator: Ronald E. Reeve, Joseph P. Allen, John Sirard, Richard Warren, & Arthur L. Weltman

    Languages Across Borders (LAB): Building Positive Cross-Linguistic and Cross-Cultural Networks in High Schools
    PIs: Amanda K. Kibler, Allison Atteberry, Christine N. Hardigree, & April S. Salerno

    Reproductive Health Among Sexual Minority Youth
    PI: Charlotte J. Patterson

    A Study of Positive Youth Development Among High School Students
    PI: Joanna Lee Williams

  • 2010

    See more details about the projects and results here
    Press release about funded studies.

    Supporting Food and Exercise Counseling for Overweight and Obese Children
    PIs: Stephanie Guerlain & Martha Hellems

    Improving Nutrition and Exercise Competence in Obese Schoolchildren via SALUD
    PIs: Amy Boitnott & Mark DeBoer

    Vascular Disease in Adolescent Type 1 Diabetic (DM1) Subjects
    PI: Eugene Barrett

    Statutory Rape or ‘Normal’ Teen Love?
    PI: N. Dickon Reppucci

    Motivating Youth Through the Humanities
    PIs: Andrew D. Kaufman, Julian Connolly, & Roger C. Burket