VIOLENCE PREVENTION PROJECT SEEKS TO HELP STUDENTS OVERCOME AGRESSION PROBLEMS
Numerous programs seek to curb violence in school-age students, but little evidence exists about what kinds of programs actually work. As principal investigator of the Syracuse University Violence Prevention Project, School of Education professor Joan Burstyn hopes to find that answer. "Many of the programs were introduced by activists who really believe their way of doing things is going to be significant," says Burstyn, professor of cultural foundations of education. "But there's not been an enormous amount of effort to learn how effective they are. So there haven't been the kinds of studies done nationally that provide reliable information at a substantive level."
The SU program, a five-year project started in summer 1997, should help researchers learn what methods are most influential in reducing teen violence. Through a partnership with the Syracuse City School District's VINTA (Violence is Not the Answer) School, the program focuses on such prevention and intervention strategies as enhancing community service experiences, and teaching communication skills, anger management, conflict resolution, appreciation of cultural diversity, and problem solving.
VINTA is a school to which 6th- through 12th-grade students are sent for up to one academic year when found carrying weapons, other than guns, in their home schools. Eighty to 90 students are enrolled in the school at any given time.
Syracuse University became involved in the project as part of a consortium of seven institutions of higher education funded by the Hamilton Fish National Institute on School and Community Violence at The George Washington University through a contract with the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The consortium focuses on assessing programs to determine the most effective practices. Its members are conducting two-part quantitative evaluations at their sites to see whether interventions led to any significant reductions in violence. SU's project also has a qualitative component. "No other consortium member is doing a qualitative piece at the level that we are," says project director Kim Williams G'92, G'97.
The research at VINTA includes in-depth interviews with students, faculty, administrators, and parents. "This allows us to describe the process of what goes on during intervention projects," Burstyn says. "It provides a different and more in-depth view than we might get from a quantitative study."
The program also provides community service and research opportunities for students. Graduate students Domingo Guerra, Roland Grimes, and Marlene St. Germain are assisting with aspects of the project like community service, parent outreach, and helping the VINTA students make the transition back to their regular schools. Several undergraduates from the Public Affairs Program in the College of Arts and Sciences have participated in the program as well. "We're trying to line up undergraduate volunteers to work with and tutor VINTA students to try to get as much help and involvement on this as we can," Williams says.
PROFESSOR AND STUDENTS IMMERSE THEMSELVES IN WATER-QUALITY PROJECTS
For civil and environmental engineering professor Ray Letterman and his students, improving the quality of drinking water is an ongoing concern. "A critical issue in drinking water treatment is whether to add more chlorine and other chemicals to kill microorganisms, or to increase the efficiency of filtration systems in removing them," he says. Inefficient filtration may result in water-borne diseases today, Letterman explains, but increased disinfectant use can heighten the risk of cancer over time.
Professor Ray Letterman, left, and Amir A. Rahman compare clean and dirty glass particles taken from an experimental filter.
Environmental engineering student Amir A.Rahman '99 worked with Letterman this year on the Glass Sand Project, a research initiative that explores the effectiveness of using pulverized recycled glass in water filtration systems. The idea is that such a system can provide smaller communities with a more economical means of water treatment and, at the same time, help New York State use thousands of tons of waste recycled glass. "I gained experimental and analytical experience from my research, as well as insight on the logic and mechanics of water treatment," A. Rahman says. "Hopefully, our findings can be used by the community."
Letterman initiated the three-phase project about three years ago. The first phase, carried out in a Hinds Hall lab, focused on the pulverization processhow to maximize the amount of appropriate-sized glass for filtration use. In October 1998, Letterman and a team of students started a yearlong pilot plant study in Canajoharie, New York, using the glass sand system. In November, they began analyzing data from the project. "The results are very positive," Letterman says. "They helped Canajoharie officials obtain approval from the state health department to implement the system."
In addition to the Glass Sand Project, students are working with Letterman on two projects funded by the drinking water industry and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. One initiative, begun more than a year ago, will develop a method for the calibration of particles counters, instruments that treatment plants have begun to use to test the performance of filters. The second, initiated in January, focuses on the instruments used to measure the turbidity, or haziness, of water.
For Letterman, providing students with the chance to do research is rewarding. "When you talk to your former students and see how their involvement in these projects has influenced their careers and their lives," he says, "it makes it all worthwhile."
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