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Shirley Brice Heath is an advocate for young people, most recently focusing on their voluntary engagement in long-term projects that center in the arts, environmental sustainability, and social justice. Her major research since 1987 has been with young people in under-resourced neighborhoods who learn entrepreneurial and community building skills as they help create and sustain positive learning environments that contribute to local cultural and economic resources. Her primary research focuses on later language development, visual learning, and language socialization.

Her honors include Fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Ford Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. She has received the David H. Russell Research Award from National Council of Teachers of English, and the Grawemeyer Award in Education (jointly with Milbrey McLaughlin). She also holds honorary degrees from Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Stockholm University, and Goldsmith University of the University of London.

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