Performances of Urban Youth Peer Educator Identities: A Participatory Approach

Dissertation Summary

Maranda’s proposed interpretive, arts-based, participatory action research (PAR) study aims to explore how urban youth who serve as peer educators in an arts-based peer education program “do” (or act out) their identities. Her theoretical framework first draws on the symbolic interactionism theory (Goffman, 1959) to offer identities as created within interactions with others before situating the sub/conscious nature of how youth perform who they are within in the existing discourses on urban youth identity and peer educator identity. This PAR study is significant because it adds youth-centered data stories to what is said and believed about urban youth.


Maranda Ward is a doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development studying Curriculum and Instruction at George Washington University (GW). She earned a Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana and her B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

As a fellow with the GW Risk & Resilience Workgroup, she conducted research on positive youth development through aesthetic peer education models which expands the research of her academic advisor, Dr. Brian Casemore. She also conducted research with Dr. Jeffery Bingenheimer on the protective role of social capital to reduce HIV risk among adolescents in Ghana as a Child, Adolescent and School Health Fellow which was funded through the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Maranda’s research is translated into practice as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Promising Futures, a youth development pipeline for youth ages eleven to twenty-four, which uses a social justice approach to positive youth development and hip hop pedagogy. She is a certified trainer for three CDC evidence based interventions: Focus on Youth (FOY) + ImPACT, Video Opportunities in Innovative Condom Education and Safer Sex (VOICES), and Project Adult Identity Mentoring (AIM). As a community educator with strong program development, evaluation and grant writing and management experience, her research and conference presentations have spanned from urban youth identities and culture/s to the conditions that produce interpersonal violence and sexual risk taking among urban youth. Maranda is faculty at the Washington School for Girls in Washington, D.C. She was born and raised in Long Beach, California and enjoys traveling, film, theatre, and concerts.