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EHE Office of Research
May 20, 2016

Urban GEMS, funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA/USDA) Children, Youth and Families at Risk program, is focused on increasing student engagement through project-based learning and improving health-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors among participating youth.

Urban GEMS (Gardening Entrepreneurs Motivating Sustainability) is led by principal investigator Deanna Wilkinson, Human Sciences, with Emily Roe, Academy for Urban Scholars (AUS), and Tiffany Groce, Reaching Higher Heights 4-Life (RHH4-L). Faculty and staff from OSU Extension, SNAP-Ed, the National Center for Urban Solutions (NCUS) and the African American Male Wellness Walk are also involved.

Urban GEMS is a multifaceted 21st-century positive youth development initiative designed to reduce high school dropout  rates by enriching the science, health, personal and career development curricular offerings at two community sites for youth and families at high risk. Students will build competencies in youth leadership, teamwork, project development, project management, microbusiness operations, professionalism, event planning and Internet and social media marketing.

They will also learn more about food safety, product development, branding, financial asset management, engineering solutions such as alternative, more energy efficient lighting systems, and connecting with career professionals. In addition, the project aims to increase the youth’s fresh fruit and vegetable consumption by 50 percent during the program. As the youth engage in new activities and experiences they will be asked to share their knowledge with their parents and/or guardians and other community adults to spread awareness of the benefits of healthy habits.

The first implementation site is the Academy for Urban Scholars (AUS) in Columbus, a brick-and-mortar dropout and recovery high school serving high school students ages 14 to 22. The second test site for Urban GEMS is (RHH4-L), a local nonprofit organization serving the south side of Columbus. By the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Urban GEMS will have educated approximately 300 young people at the two community sites.

This project aims to create a sustainable model that propels engaged youth as leaders in developing and applying 21st-century skills to address local community needs as they work side-by-side with caring adults inspired by their passion for young people.

For more information about this award, please contact Deanna Wilkinson at


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