We conduct a randomized evaluation of an in-depth group workshop where New York City Public College (QC) students were introduced to the resilient-thinking approach, which offers conceptual tools to cope with unexpected negative shocks. Treated youths were offered a 90-minute workshop where they identified challenges in their community both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and brainstormed strategies to address them. The goal of the workshops was to increase students’ level of resilience, a well-known protective factor against exposure to adverse social determinants of health. After being introduced key elements from the resilience-thinking approach, students worked both individually and in groups of five to seven students each, sharing their experiences about the challenges in their community both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic, identifying the most common challenges, brainstorming on strategies to address them, and identifying potential bottom-up solutions to their community challenges.
One month before the workshops were to take place, a random sample of QC students were invited to apply online to participate in a resilience-thinking workshop after completing an online survey. Students were informed that, due to space limitations, application was no guarantee of being selected to participate in the workshop as only a small group of students would be selected by lottery; and that workshop participants would be remunerated $50 cash at the end of the workshop and after completion of the exit survey. To be eligible to participate, students had to be 18 years old or older, registered to classes during the semester of the workshop, seeking an undergraduate degree, and had to apply online to participate in the 90-minute workshop. Most survey respondents (92.8% in Spring 2022 and 95% in Fall 2022) applied to the workshop, adding to a total of 750 applicants, 335 of which did so in the Spring semester. Due to budget constraints, the evaluation sample was limited to 76 students in the Spring semester, and 186 students in the Fall semester. Hence, a total of 262 students were randomly assigned to the treatment group. We randomly selected a similar number of students for the control group.
Using an online survey, we measured students’ resilience level both at application and at the end of workshop, which were a month apart. Randomization took place two weeks after application. At application, we also measured students’ baseline mental health as well as whether they are born in the United States or a first-generation college student. Between three to six months after randomization, students completed a follow-up survey on their resilience level, depression, anxiety and PTS disorder. From the college administrative records, we also observe students’ other demographic characteristics and baseline socio-economic status. Program implementation data informs us on which students were randomly assigned to the treatment and control group, which workshop students in the treatment group were assigned to, and whether they attended the workshop.
The short-term outcome is student's resilience level, measured at the end of the workshop (for treated students) and at application (for control students). Medium-term outcomes include resilience, anxiety, depression, and PTS all measured in the follow-up survey, between 3 and 6 months after randomization.