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Essential elements of youth development that every youth worker should know

By Karyn Santl

It’s back-to-school time, which makes me think about going back to the basics. As a youth worker, that means the basics of youth work and positive youth development theory and practice. And for me that means Gisela Konopka’s work.

In the 1970s, Dr. Konopka conducted her research at the University of Minnesota School of Social Work. Her work set the national agenda for promoting the health and well being of young people. She said the effectiveness of youth programs can be judged by the opportunities they offer youth and the credibility they enjoy. Stand-out programs give young people the experience of making choices, making commitments and experimenting with a variety of roles to “try out” the choices and commitment they make.

The Extension Center for Youth Development has identified eight critical elements essential to the healthy development of young people. They are based on Konopka's and Karen Pittman's research. Youth will benefit from experiences providing …
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