Official unveiling


President Graham B. Spanier and Pennsylvania First Lady Michele Ridge
reveal a commemorative poster marking the official opening of the
College of Health and Human Development's new Prevention Research Center.
Photo: Greg Grieco

New violence prevention center aims
to improve the well-being of children

Promoting the healthy development of children and reducing the prevalence of high-risk behaviors and poor outcomes for children, youth and families will be the goals for Penn State's newly established Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development.

The new center, which is part of the College of Health and Human Development, was officially opened by Pennsylvania's First Lady Michele M. Ridge, Penn State President Graham B. Spanier and Barbara Shannon, dean of the College of Health and Human Development, at a ceremony in Old Main on the University Park campus April 28.

"The future of our nation will be deeply influenced by the health and social well-being of our children, youth and families," said Spanier. "This new center is part of the University's renewed commitment to partnering with communities to improve their quality of life."

The center, which will engage faculty and students from many different disciplines in community partnerships to benefit children, will be directed by Mark T. Greenberg, the first holder of the Edna Peterson Bennett Endowed Chair in Prevention Research and professor of human development and family studies. Greenberg is one of the nation's leading specialists in the prevention of childhood aggression and delinquency and the promotion of emotional and social competence in children.

"The new Prevention Research Center will build on strengths within the College of Health and Human Development in addressing issues like violence, delinquency, substance abuse, teen pregnancy and malnutrition, and in promoting human well-being," said Shannon. "Dr. Greenberg and the new center bring the important perspective of prevention science to our college, calling on educators and social institutions to work together to eliminate problems before they can develop, not after it's too late."

Greenberg and his colleagues will conduct research on risk and protective factors and how they lead to well-being or maladaptation; they also hope to stimulate interdisciplinary research and collaborative projects with Pennsylvania communities to develop effective ways to decrease risk factors in children, families and their communities.

The center already has begun work with the governor's Community Partnership for Safe Children (Children's Partnership), chaired by Michele Ridge; the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD); and other state agencies. At the opening, Mrs. Ridge applauded the center for its receipt of a $353,000 grant from PCCD. The grant is for a three-year project to evaluate the commission's innovative "Communities That Care" initiative -- a community-based program to promote healthy outcomes in youth. The program currently operates in 47 sites across 34 counties.

"Troubled, delinquent and violent children most often come from troubled families and communities. By their very nature, government systems can do little to prevent these behaviors from developing; however, individuals and communities have the ability to nurture and protect our children," said Michele Ridge. "The Children's Partnership seeks to curb youth violence by reducing child abuse, academic failure, drug and alcohol abuse, illiteracy and other factors that make children more likely to commit crime. Penn State's Prevention Research Center is working to address these very factors, so collaboration between the two organizations is a natural one."

Social problems affecting children have reached an epidemic proportion that requires communities to work together "to help families, schools, and communities become the healthy social-emotional learning environments that we all yearn for," said Greenberg. "We can't incarcerate our way out of the problem. We must devise new strategies to solve these problems." In addition to conducting research and providing assistance to communities, the center will have a role to play in recommending public policy affecting children and families, Greenberg said.

The new center is located in South Henderson Building on the University Park campus. For more information, contact the Prevention Research Center for the Promotion of Human Development at (814) 865-2618. For more information about the governor's Community Partnership for Safe Children, check the Web at http://www.cp.state.pa.us/ or call (800) 692-7292.

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