“You don’t climb mountains without a team, you don’t climb mountains without being fit, you don’t climb mountains without being prepared and you don’t climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident – it has to be intentional”. Mark Udall, former U.S. Senator from Colorado, now working with Outward Bound.
Turning the calendar to 2016 causes me to reflect on the past year and make efforts to do some things better and with more intentionality.
Attending a workshop taught by my colleague, Sherry Boyce on intentional program design also sparked my thinking and reminded me that intentional program planning requires a fresh approach every time. During the first part of the workshop, we were asked to identify a youth program that we had been part of either as a participant, volunteer or professional, and conduct a program audit. I found this to be very insightful, as I thought about the experience my kids have as members of the 4-H program. They’ve had many opportunities to be involved in 4-H club, county, regional and state programs. Some of their experiences have been intentionally designed to meet certain learning objectives, while others have been less structured and at times chaotic.
The mountain you are climbing may be a youth mentoring experience, a summer camp or a whole new initiative in your organization. In every case, intentionality is crucial. What benefits do you see for programs that have intentionally matched their program content with positive youth development principles and quality? Have you been able to review a program and make changes that significantly improved the learning experience for youth?
As we think about being more intentional in program design, we must also explore ways to provide learning opportunities for youth workers to understand the field and grow. Keep asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” and “What will the youth gain from it?” In other words, be intentional.
In a white paper a few years ago, my colleagues laid out the importance of professional development for youth workers and the need to create more intentional professional development venues and a wider range of learning opportunities for youth workers at all phases of their careers. What professional development opportunities are you seeking in your role? What training do you need but can’t find?
Whether we are climbing mountains, designing programs, or seeking professional development opportunities, we must take intentional steps to reach the highest peak.
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