Almost half of adolescents aged 11 to 14 have dated and between 10% and 30% report experiencing Teen Dating Violence (TDV). However, there are no evidence-based TDV prevention interventions designed for afterschool, community-based settings with middle-school youth, in high-risk neighborhoods. Start Strong Boston (SSB) is a model that fills all three gaps, founded on partnerships between the Boston Public Health Commission, community afterschool sites, academic experts and evaluators, and youth. Here, we describe the SSB program and discuss how this collaboration built upon successes of this peer-engaged intervention, by developing and implementing a youth participatory action research (YPAR) evaluation study of SSB. Use of the YPAR framework tested the feasibility of employing Peer Researchers in an interdisciplinary evaluation team. We describe how through participation in evaluation research, Peer Researchers improve professional and leadership skills while informing measurement and conceptualization of a program affecting their own neighborhoods. Lessons learned are presented.
Keywords: Adolescent; Community-based; Dating Violence; Evaluation; Prevention; Youth Participatory Action Research.