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Voices for Virginia’s Children Amplify Awards selects UVa's own

A University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development professor was recognized for her contributions and dedication to the betterment of youth development in Virginia.

Nancy L. Deutsch was selected as the Established Advocate Honoree in Voices for Virginia’s Children Amplify Awards.

Deutsch is a researcher who focuses on adolescent development. She explores what makes relationships, programs, schools and other youth settings maximally supportive, and she discovers ways to ensure positive outcomes.

“To me, it’s one of the most meaningful awards that I could get, because it means that people see the work that I’m doing as actually contributing to supporting young people, and that’s the aim of what I do and why I do what I do,” Deutsch, director of Youth-Nex, told The Daily Progress.

Youth-Nex, founded in 2009, is a research center at UVa’s School of Education and Human Development. Its goal is to utilize and increase studies surrounding youths to “prevent developmental risks” including school failure, mental health issues, substance abuse and violence, according to the organization.

Deutsch works directly with youth organizations and after-school programs, as well as schools to help adults recognize what young people need developmentally, she said.

“I try to do research that is useful for programs and educators and try to translate the research for the people who work with youth,” Deutsch said.

Voices for Virginia’s Children is a nonprofit organization that advocates equitable outcomes for youth through public policy and legislation, according to the organization. They envision a Virginia with systems that “center young people, ensuring their ability to realize their brightest potential is no longer predictable by race, socioeconomic status or geography.”

The Amplify Awards are formally known as the Carol S. Fox Making Kids Count Awards. Fox, in part, founded the Action Alliance for Virginia’s Children and Youth in 1994, an advocacy organization that acted “as the vehicle for the dream that all children in Virginia could thrive and grow to their fullest potential.”

Honorees continue Fox’s legacy of “lifting up and amplifying the voices of young people.” Deutsch will be recognized on Oct. 10 at the Science Museum of Virginia.

Active in politics and social change since a young age, Deutsch always has thought of herself as an activist, she said. She knew the work she carries out had to have a purpose deeper than “just contributing knowledge.”

“I’ve always thought a lot about social justice and equity, and when I was younger, I didn’t initially know what that meant in terms of what I would do with my life, but I think I always had a sense that I had to be giving back in whatever I was doing,” Deutsch said.

One of the things intrigued Deutsch about in her work was when she was working as a research assistant in graduate school on a project in boys’ and girls’ clubs, she said. Many clubs she conducted her research in were often located in low-income neighborhoods with youths who “had to navigate their way through neighborhoods that were divided by gangs.”

Seeing youths talk about the clubs like second homes and discuss the relationships formed through the clubs was a point that struck Deutsch as something to take a deeper dive into.

“All of these things were constant reminders of the inequities that are present in young people’s lives,” Deutsch said. “Not every young person is walking into school or walking into their local after-school program from the same context or with the same support and resources available, and that recommitted me to the idea that part of my purpose had to be to change those systems that were creating inequitable settings for youth.”


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