July 29, 2009 — The Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia has been awarded $4 million by Philip Morris USA, an Altria Company, to establish the Center for Positive Youth Development. The center is being created to design and evaluate school- and community-based programs intended to improve youths' health, well-being, civic engagement and academic achievement.
The funding for the new center is part of a $25 million commitment to U.Va. by Philip Morris USA, which was announced in 2007. The partnership supports independent research in a number of key areas in which U.Va. and Philip Morris USA share a common interest. The School of Medicine and McIntire School of Commerce also have received funding from this commitment.
The center at the Curry School will focus primarily on youths between the ages of 12 and 18. Its mission will be to develop effective approaches that equip youngsters with the skills, knowledge and experience needed for healthy physical, intellectual, social and emotional development during the often-challenging years of adolescence.
The work of the center also will include a focus on building youths' capacity to refrain from risk-taking behavior during this important period of development.
Currently, schools and communities invest in a wide variety of programs intended to support youth, but very few of these efforts have been evaluated or shown to be effective, said Robert Pianta, dean of the Curry School. The Center for Positive Youth Development will also provide evaluation and technical assistance to support existing efforts and partner with states (including Virginia) to track outcomes and build policies that support positive development. The center will work to develop evaluation tools and design effective new programs, keeping in mind the importance for these programs to be replicated in other schools and communities.
"The Curry School is delighted to take a leadership role in advancing the University's effort to develop effective programs for youth and to assist communities and the Commonwealth in this regard," Pianta said. "Our placing of this initiative with PM USA has been mindful of the critical importance of strengthening the positive resources of youth through building developmental assets in schools and communities. We look at this effort as reflective of Curry's commitment to education that strengthens the whole child."
One of four major areas of focus for PM USA's corporate philanthropy is "Positive Youth Development." The company continues to invest in "leading youth-serving organizations to help provide youth with the positive support they need to make healthy choices and achieve full potential in school, work and life."
"Philip Morris USA has been a leader in funding positive youth development programs in the United States for nearly 10 years," said Jennifer Hunter, Altria Client Services' vice president for corporate responsibility. "We believe the Curry School's new center will develop new approaches that will result in positive outcomes for many children."