Hip Hop, Empowerment, and Therapeutic Beat-making: Potential Solutions for Summer Learning Loss, Depression, and Anxiety in Youth
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A challenge faced by many students is the loss of academic skills during the summer months. However, less attention is given to social and emotional needs during the summer. Thirty-five middle school students from low-SES homes participated in a summer program designed to improve verbal, academic, and youth development competencies. Three students in the program also participated in an intervention that used Hip Hop and Empowerment (HHE) and Therapeutic Beat Making (TBM) strategies to promote youth development and reduce elevated depressive and anxiety symptoms. Data were collected by questionnaires measuring Empowerment-based Positive Youth Development (EMPYD) indicators of Connection, Confidence, Competence, Caring, Character, Sense of community, and Active and engaged citizenship, plus well-being indicators of depression and anxiety. Results included improvements across all youth development indicators and depression and anxiety symptoms for the intervention participants. Using the Independent Samples Mann-Whitney U Test, a statistically significant decrease (worsening) between Time 1 and Time 2 measures of character were found for the non-intervention group. When comparing the intervention group to the non-intervention group at Time 2, statistically significant differences were found for improvements in character and depression and anxiety symptoms. This study suggests that a well-designed, research-based Hip Hop-integrated strategy may complement summer learning strategies and help improve mental health outcomes for low-income middle school youth. It is necessary to continue research that explores the efficacy of Hip Hop-based mental health interventions, and potential ways to mitigate social and emotional loss alongside academic loss in the summer months.