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Extension > Youth Development Insight > 2015

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

SOAR -- don't SWOT -- to reach a strategic decision

By Mark Haugen

How do you make your leadership decisions? There are almost as many decision-making methods as there are leadership styles.

Some organizations expect or allow decisions to be made exclusively by an individual or small group of leaders. Some leaders do a group SWOT analysis, where insights are gained by reviewing the Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats related to a needed decision.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Let's talk about the first-generation experience

By Jessica Pierson Russo

Earlier this year, Extension Youth Development professionals from Minnesota and 11 other North Central states began to explore how to better invite and retain “first-generation 4-Hers.” This is especially important in light of racially-motivated violent events such as those that occurred within the past week in North Minneapolis. They are symptoms of a racial pathology that will continue to plague our country, as well as our youth programs, if we don’t do anything about it, and if we don’t talk about it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Youth workers need to go out and play!

By Nicole Pokorney

Recently, while teaching a room full of youth workers, I was taken aback by a few early-career professionals who were struggling with why they were actually doing youth work. On the same day, I also met an older gentleman who was full of energy for working with youth after doing it for more than 30 years. What was the difference between them?  I believe it was passion and innovation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How do we support co-parenting in youth work?

By Sara Langworthy

A few weeks ago, I attended the Children, Youth and Family Consortium’s Lessons from the Field event on coparenting and divorce. Researchers James McHale Ph.D. and Kathryn Edin Ph.D. talked about their work with divorcing and never married families and ways to promote high quality parenting that benefits children and youth. Their talks raised questions for me about what we’re doing in our Extension programming to support youth and their families, especially when parents are parenting apart.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Equipping our youth with SEL skills: Local snapshots and strategies

By Kate Walker

Our public symposium series is an opportunity to invite national experts to share the latest developments and discuss cutting-edge issues in the field of youth development. But there is plenty to learn from our own local scholars and practitioners as well.  At our upcoming symposium on Nov. 24, researchers will share data on how Minnesota youth are doing on a set of social and emotional learning (SEL) indicators and a panel of practitioners will share some promising programs and strategies from right here at home.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A 'stone soup' approach to programming can work pretty well

By Joshua Kukowski

The White Earth Science and Math Academy day camp has been going on since 1999 and has had measurable success in both outcomes and in process. This year’s camp had a lack of centralized funding, creating a need for multiple groups to work together to put it on. This stimulated each partner to really identify their strengths and contribute what they could.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Me, biased? Implicit bias in youth work

By Kathryn Sharpe

What do these situations have in common: a youth worker addressing challenging behavior, a judge deciding on ribbons at the state fair and a hiring committee interviewing candidates? Answer: In each of these situations, people are making decisions based on both conscious and unconscious factors. Neurosocial research is revealing that human beings are influenced constantly by both positive and negative subconscious associations about others, based on characteristics such as race, gender, age, weight, accents and many other aspects of our identity. This phenomenon is known as implicit bias and has significant implications in our behavior and judgments.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Responsible decision making, a social and emotional skill

By Carrie Ann Olson

Bombarded by advertisements of what to buy, media messages of how to look and peer pressure of what to do, responsible decision making can be tough stuff. Every day, youth are tasked with promoting their own health, avoiding risky behaviors and dealing honestly and fairly with others. That’s decision making – a social and emotional skill.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Negotiate to reach your program goals

By Amber Shanahan 

You may cringe when you think about negotiating, but I’m here to tell you that negotiation does not have to inherently apply to conflict or uncomfortable conversations. Negotiation is a powerful tool that can be used to ensure you’re utilizing all of your constituent’s assets to their full potential to best support the youth you serve.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Youth voice -- how much and when?

By Betsy Olson and Mark Haugen

Each fall, leaders of youth organizations reflect on their successes, celebrate with award ceremonies and begin planning for next year. Injecting youth voice into your annual program planning and goal-setting process is critical as it increases the relevance of those goals or plans. Providing space and time for youth voice also works to engage young people. Once engaged, they are more successful at accomplishing goals and following through on plans.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Finding the sweet spot between volunteer time and program need

As youth development professionals, we work hard to engage adult volunteers in meaningful long-term relationships with young people. Research, particularly from the field of youth mentoring, indicates that youth whose relationship with an adult mentor lasts at least a year have more positive outcomes than those lasting less than a year. Anecdotally, we hear youth in the 4-H program share how their 4-H club leader has been an ongoing source of support for several years as they developed life skills and grew into adulthood.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

What draws youth to a program?

Are you trying to reach new communities with your youth programs?

Early in my career, I came to understand that what draws young people to programs is adults that take a genuine interest in them. Building a genuine, positive relationship with a young person takes time and patience. One of the most effective ways to make it happen is through youth-adult partnerships.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Autism: The fastest growing developmental disability impacts youth development

By Darcy Cole

If you have worked in youth development for long, you probably have encountered at least one youth who seems “unique”. You might not know exactly why he or she is different, but you know for some reason she is. That something may be called autism.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

How can we overcome gender bias in STEM education?

By Rebecca Meyer

Isis Wenger, creator of the #ILookLikeAnEngineer campaign
How do we engage women in productive science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers when stereotypes run so deep? A recent ad campaign by a company recruiting engineers ignited a social media dialogue about sexism in the tech industry and what people believe engineers should look like. One of the ads featured a female engineer, which elicited sexist comments in social media.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Bridging the higher ed aspiration-achievement gap

By Joanna Tzenis

Many young people aspire to go to college, but there’s a gap between aspirations for higher education and actually enrolling. This is an important gap to address because lower levels of educational attainment are associated with higher levels of poverty.

Here are the numbers: In the U.S. in 2011, a higher percentage of young adults without a high school diploma (31 percent) were living in poverty than those who had completed high school (24 percent) and those who had earned a bachelor’s or higher degree (14 percent) (U.S. Department of Education, 2011).

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Video for learning and engagement

By Sara Langworthy

Online video is ubiquitous for watching and sharing content – especially for young people. In fact, many youth are watching more free online video content (11.3 hours per week) than traditional TV (8.3 hours per week). A recent survey by Defy Media suggests that younger viewers find YouTube content more entertaining than traditional TV shows and they are more likely to view YouTube creators as role models than TV stars.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How to make impactful summer learning experiences

By Carrie Ann Olson

The summer schedule for young people can be full of adventure, curiosity and exploration. On the other hand, the lack of structure can cause boredom and lack of motivation. Youth practitioners may find it hard to come up with appealing activities non-formal learning environments that foster education and career success, healthy relationships and engaged citizenship.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Online activism, a forum for 21st century giving

By Trudy Dunham

My colleague Jennifer Skuza's new profile photo.
Did you add a rainbow to your Facebook profile photo last week?  Did you think twice before making your decision? Was it a risky choice for you? Did you think of it as a meaningful action?

Following the Supreme Court decision on June 26 that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, more than a million Facebook users changed their profile images in celebration.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Youth programs need bricoleurs (that's you)

By Pamela Larson Nippolt

Today, youth workers are expected to be social innovators. Francis Westley teaches us about the place for bricolage in designing innovative programs that address critical issues facing youth. Bricolage is the “DIY” of program design or, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, “construction (as of a sculpture or a structure of ideas) achieved by using whatever comes to hand; also something constructed in this way.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Indignities and insults: Racial microaggressions

By Trish Olson, Extension Center for Family Development

This post first appeared in Family Matters, the newsletter of the Extension Center for Family Development.

Hot Buttons from Cultures Connecting.
Have you ever attended a conference where, when someone asks you afterward “What did you learn?” you drew a blank? Such was not the case with the Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) conference I attended in Washington, D.C. last week.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Making curiosity happen

By Jessica Pierson Russo

I’ve been thinking about curiosity and how to spark it. My colleague Anne Stevenson recently asked why the innate skill of asking questions tends to drop off as we move through school and into careers. This prompted me to look a bit more deeply into how we can more intentionally develop curiosity as a skill in our youth programs.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Put it in writing: Why you should get published

By Jennifer Skuza

There is something so rewarding about seeing your name in print as an author. You may think about youth continuously, do the work every day, hone your practice and even conduct applied research but even so, when you publish, you receive validation from peers that shows your work contributes to the field of youth development.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Planting the seeds for higher education

By Nancy Hegland

“What do you want to study after high school?” “What career do you want to pursue?” As a junior high student, I clearly remember being asked to write a paper on these questions and researching the details of being a dental hygienist, which seemed very interesting at the time. That idea eventually faded, and in the years that followed, many mentors guided me, even though I wasn’t sure where I was headed and whether I could make it in college.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Ways to make youth programs more inclusive

By Kathryn Sharpe

“I have a group of Muslim youth who won trips to the state fair—what kind of religious accommodations will they need?”  This is a question that I asked myself last summer. It’s an example of the kind of question all youth workers must ask themselves if they want to make their programs more welcoming to non-traditional audiences.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reframing the politics of youth work

By Amber Shanahan

A passion for youth work is often what drives us to join this profession. We love young people and feel enriched by the rewards of helping them to become the best person they can be.

But our passions can get derailed by politics. It might be a power struggle between passionate volunteers, or the meddling of an influentially connected parent, or the fickleness of a funder attracted to another cause.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Youth programs: Powerful settings for social-emotional learning

By Kate Walker

How exactly does learning unfold in youth programs? They are a particularly rich context for young people to learn and practice social and emotional learning skills. It is critical that we understand how learning happens there, and how we as adults can support that process.

Youth in our programs often engage in real-world activities and projects, work in teams, take on meaningful roles, face challenges and experience the accompanying up and downs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why incorporate engineering skills into an environmental program?

By Hui-Hui Wang

When you think about engineering, do you first think of machines and buildings? People rarely associate engineering with the natural world. You may think it’s hard to design a youth program that combines engineering design and environmental or nature components. It is a challenge but it’s worth doing because of the thinking skills that youth can get from these activities.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Brief programs can make a lasting impression. How can we measure that?

By Betsy Olson

Searching through childhood pictures of a clowning workshop I attended as an eight-year-old, I have strong, happy memories of our tumbling presentation, with my parents laughing in the audience. These memories resonate with me as I prepare for an upcoming youth leadership presentation, and have me thinking about how to evaluate brief programs.

Measuring impressions from them can be tricky. However, keeping a few considerations in mind can simplify the process of evaluating brief programs – defined as those lasting fewer than eight hours.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

6 critical collaborative leadership practices to engage diverse youth


Collaboration should be the way we do business for young people. We know that no one youth program can support every child’s needs and engage youth from every background. But by working in collaboration with other programs, we can bring our commitment to enriching the lives of young people to even more of them.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What do young people think about social and emotional learning?

By Cynthia Matthias

Who do young people confide in? Do they ever talk about setting goals, managing emotions, or understanding other people’s perspectives?

Young people will be most impacted by the policies concerning the teaching and assessment of SEL skills in schools and in out-of-school-time programs, yet their thoughts on the topic have not been heard. The YouthVoice project research team, an intergenerational group convened in collaboration with Youthprise, is working to remedy this situation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Paying it forward, with mentoring or mocha

By Joshua Kukowski

I had my first “pay it forward” experience at a coffee shop recently and I was confronted with a choice: should I continue the trend?   I had no scientific evidence that paying it forward to the next coffee drinker would be a good thing to do. I just knew.  I bought the next person a cup of coffee.

Mentoring is like that. There are now 15 years' worth of research proving that mentoring helps young people succeed.  But mentors do it because they just know.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ask a beautiful question

By Anne Stevenson

“What’s the most powerful question you know?” Children ask hundreds of questions a day as soon as they can speak. But in grade school, questioning “drops off a cliff,” according to data from the 2009 U.S. Nations Report Card.

Why does this innate skill fall away as we move through school and into careers?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What's the connection between social emotional learning and program quality?

By Margo Herman

The simplistic answer to the question is that a high-quality youth program provides an environment conducive to developing social and emotional skills.

Yet simplistic does not reflect the depth of the question. Researchers are immersed in defining the compatibility and the distinction in these two key areas of youth work practice. And practitioners naturally want to know more about how we will measure these outcomes and if measures for both SEL and program quality will be compatible.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Agriculture, science and real life

By Joshua Rice

“When am I ever going to use this in real life?” If you're an educator working with youth, you've probably heard this question, usually when they're faced with a complex equation, a problem-solving scenario, or are asked to read, remember, and recall information.

Agriculture educators have an advantage answering this question. They can simply reply, "Every day."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Are we doing enough for special needs youth?

By Darcy Cole

Schools work hard to serve special needs students, but can youth programs say that they do the same? In the public school system, formal individualized education plans (IEPs) outline the supports that will ensure the success of special students. But youth programs don’t have IEPs.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ways of Being: A social and emotional learning model

kate-walker.jpgTo make sense of the emerging field of social and emotional learning (SEL), we developed a model we call Ways of Being. It paints a picture of the whole social and emotional learner, describing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors that exist within a person who is socially and emotionally competent.

The model describes dynamic, interactive ways of being that exist in three layers -- identity, awareness, and navigation and three dimensions -- ways of feeling, ways of relating to others, and ways of doing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stories of refugee youth may be hiding in your program

Pamela-Nippolt.jpgIf you are working with youth, you are probably working youth whose families have sought refuge in the U.S. They may not tell you their stories, but you can learn more about the refugee experience -- and you should -- to create more effective learning spaces for them and for all young people in your program.

More than 50 million citizens across the globe were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2014, the highest number of refugees and internally displaced people since 1994. More than half of them were under the age of 18.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How leaders develop trust

mark-haugen.jpgA leader needs to be trusted. Trust is an important element of the work I do with members of the community. But why should they trust me and the organization I represent?

I wish that everyone saw me as I see myself; someone who is worthy of their complete trust. Sadly, I'm not a perfect leader, and like all leaders, have been in situations where people don't trust me fully.

Not one of us is perfect. The truth is that in educational, non-profit and community settings there are people who don't know us or our programs, well enough for them to trust. As full time, part time, paid or volunteer leaders of programs we need to invest our time in developing and maintaining the trust of others.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Prominent misperceptions about social and emotional learning

Dale-Blyth.jpgA New York Times opinion piece published this week is titled, "Can we teach personality?" This is the wrong question in so many ways.

First, it's not about teaching personality but helping to equip youth with the skills they need in life - academic, social and emotional. These skills can be learned and should be -- not as a one size fits all or by forcing everyone into one mold. Rather, they should be taught as tools that can be used in navigating learning and life.

They also are, and need to be, taught by parents and expanded community learning opportunities. Like all skills important in life, we cannot and should not leave it to schools alone to help equip our young people.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The importance of readiness

Dale-Blyth.jpgWhat does it mean to be ready? According to the dictionary readiness means "the state of being fully prepared for something". As we approach each day or stage in our development are we in a state of readiness? Are we or the youth we work with ever "fully prepared" for what is going to happen? OK, maybe not fully prepared but at least prepared to take on the challenges ahead and make the most of the opportunities for learning in front of us. Prepared to try, fail, and try again.

We talk often these days about helping our children be ready for kindergarten or maybe ready for college. The Forum for Youth Investment talks about Ready by 21 - ready for work, college and life. But what does it really mean to be ready? And when we say ready do we mean ready in all the ways that matter - ready cognitively but also socially and emotionally?
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