Meet the Social Support Research Fellows Helping Us Measure Social Connectedness

Strengthening a young person’s social connectedness and social support system can be vital as they encounter complexities on the road to becoming the person they want to be. Sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Social Support Research Fellowship is a partnership between Visible Network Labs and youth fellows to understand social connectedness and social support from the perspective of young people.

Over the course of 10 months, the fellows will work with network scientists to create and modify social support and social connectedness measurement tools for young people. During the fellowship, they will assess how these tools can be used to help young people improve their own lives. Learn more about our four amazing fellows and their work below.

Zoe Crocker

Question 1: How did you learn about the Fellowship, and why did you want to participate?

I learned about the Fellowship through my youth group, Orlando Youth Alliance. I was excited to participate because it relates to my academic field of social sciences, and because I had been planning to get into research before the pandemic.

Question 2: Why do you think social support is important to young people?

I think social support is important to young people because it provides a stable, personal guiding compass to help young people to process the massive influx of information they receive daily from Internet articles and social media.

Question 3: What is your dream job or career?

My dream job would be a grant writer for a non-profit organization. I love writing and enjoy the challenge of working within formal guidelines, as well as seeing a tangible social impact from my work.

Question 4: What is your favorite fun thing to do away from school or work?

My favorite thing to do to refresh after school or work is biking. It’s a great way to get fresh air and offers a welcome break from screen time!

Martha Gonzalez

Question 1: How did you learn about the Fellowship, and why did you want to participate?

I heard about this fellowship through Mrs. Ashley at Atlanta Glow, an organization in my area. I wanted to participate because I noticed it included research regarding the impact of social connectedness and how it affects us. 

Question 2: Why do you think social support is important to young people?

Social support is so important. It’s your support system. Without this support, it’s difficult to progress in life because you do not have people to depend on when an issue arises.

Question 3: What is your dream job or career?

I want to be a cybersecurity administrator or a software engineer. I love technology so being in this field has always been a goal of mine.

Question 4: What is your favorite fun thing to do away from school or work?

I like to go hiking, swimming and playing multiplayer video games.

Kyra Stoute

Question 1: How did you learn about the Fellowship, and why did you want to participate?

I learned about the fellowship right when Ms. Ashley of Atlanta Glow sent an email about this opportunity. I wanted to participate because the research aligns with what I’m passionate about: social connectedness and the role support systems play in the outcomes for young adults. I loved the idea of working with a team, research, and improving the lives of young people who lack support systems.

Question 2: Why do you think social support is important to young people?

Social support is important to young people because it’s essential to our development. Social support is necessary whether professional, academic, and emotional. It’s also why social media will continue to be relevant because we crave to engage with others who promote our interests and beliefs because we feel validated.

Question 3: What is your dream job or career?

I’m currently exploring all my options, and I feel my career choices are changing, even expanding. However, at the moment, I envision my dream career will allow me to address the needs of foster care youth, either through direct interaction or through system reform because I was once there and I saw an unethical side of the system. I’d also like to bring more improvements to the American public education system. So far, the fellowship is bringing me much closer to my goals, so I’d definitely take the network science path.

Question 4: What is your favorite fun thing to do away from school or work?

For fun, I enjoy crochet, swimming, digital art, cooking, and reading. 

Yamilex Cruz

Question 1: How did you learn about the Fellowship, and why did you want to participate?

I learn about it because my friend Melissa told me, ‘Yami, there is a good opportunity for you, and you can learn more about technology and web development.’
 
Question 2: Why do you think social support is important to young people?

While Social support is a perception, it actually does provide care and assistance for young people. Social support is good for people because we all need relations, like having friends and family. 

Question 3: What is your dream job or career?

My dream job would be working in technology development or doing interior design for homes and residences.

Question 4: What is your favorite fun thing to do away from school or work?

When I am not working or studying at school, I enjoy drawing, creating photo albums, playing video games, and going out with friends.

We are Creating New Tools to Understand Social Support for Youth

We are excited for the opportunity to work with these young leaders with the support of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. To stay updated on our project progress, subscribe to the Network Leader Newsletter on the right, or click here to visit our Project Page for the Fellowship. We will post updates there as we move through the program. We cannot wait to see what these Fellows learn and create over the next nine months!

About the Author: Alex Derr, M.P.A.

Marketing & Communications Manager

Alex joined VNL in 2017, originally supporting our events. He now helps manages our communications and marketing strategy and content development work. Alex creates blogs, infographics, reports, and other content while managing our web and social media presence. He also runs our email marketing campaigns, tracks analytics, and conducts market research to drive our strategy. He supports our entire team with copywriting, graphic design and research, and helps with events, webinars, demos, and other online learning. When he isn’t at work Alex spends his time climbing 14ers (24 done, 34 to go!) and blogging on his own website, The Next Summit Blog.

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