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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What does it mean to be a youth development professional?

By Margo Bowerman

I’ve been a youth development professional for 17 years now. And it is not just because I get paid to do this work that I proudly claim the title of a professional.

How do you define “professional?" There are all sorts of professionals in society: youth development professionals, professional football players, professional politicians, and professional ecologists, among countless others.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Choir singing is good for your health. Yes, really.

By Sara Langworthy

I’ve been a singer as long as I can remember. As a kid, I used to sing solos at church but was too scared to speak to strangers who complimented me on my voice. Ahh introversion! But as I grew, my love for music grew with me. From middle school on, I was pretty solidly a “choir kid.” There’s something deeply soul-filling and rich about joining my voice with others that’s hard to describe.

Simply put: singing together connects me with others in a way that nothing else can. And as it turns out, the data bear out this belief.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to foster youth empathy

Lots of recent events have me wondering how to encourage and foster empathy. Empathy is when one person is able to understand how another person is feeling. This sense of understanding is not something we are born with, it is a skill that we learn. The ability to empathize is critical because it allows us to understand other people. It's an opportunity to show caring and compassion; one of the 5 C's of positive youth development. And, it's an essential skill for creating an inclusive world.

We as youth workers have an important role play. We can facilitate strategies to develop and nurture empathy in young people. Embedded in hands-on experiential learning processes, the following strategies can help support development of empathy in youth:

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Developing a love for learning

By Jessica Pierson Russo

We want so many things for our young people—confidence, a sense of hope, a successful future. But perhaps the greatest gift we can give them is a love for learning. A love for learning drives us to continually strive for understanding and can nurture a sense of hope and confidence as we arm ourselves with new knowledge that in turn can ensure a more successful future.

A love of learning probably won’t solve all problems. But it can have a deep impact on youth. What is that impact? And how do we instill such a sense of satisfaction in learning that young people crave more?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Minnesota is home to one of the world's largest Somali diaspora populations

By Jennifer Skuza

Minnesota has the nation's largest Somali American community, with census numbers placing the population at about 57,000, followed by Columbus (Ohio), San Diego, Seattle and Atlanta. Kenya hosts the largest number of Somali migrants (both refugees and nonrefugees) of any other country, according to UN estimates.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Transgender youth: Breaking down the challenges

By Judy Myers, Extension Educator — Children, Youth & Family ConsortiumExtension Center for Family Development

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

Imagine that you are an adolescent who feels unsafe everywhere you turn — at home, at school, and in your community. This is the situation for many transgender youth who are at higher risks for homelessness, abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, and suicide than other gender nonconforming young people.


What are the physical and mental health risks that transgender youth confront and how “big” of an issue is this?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why equity matters in youth development

By Kathryn Sharpe

As the demographic makeup of the U.S. undergoes a sea change of diversification, 4-H and other national historical legacy youth development organizations face a critical question: What will it take to stay relevant in the 21st Century?

This year, as part of the Northstar Youth Worker Fellowship, I undertook a research project to explore this question. My conclusion? We must work to create equity in our programs.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

5 ways to measure youth – adult connections


Informal social support networks with non-related adults are important resources for young people working through the good times and the difficulties of life. Positive connections to adult volunteers, staff and mentors result in positive outcomes for youth. But how can we measure this? I have suggestions for how to measure strong connections between youth and the caring adults in their lives, based on the benefits of  positive youth-adult connections:

Monday, October 10, 2016

Reflecting on my failure

By Mark Haugen

We've got a plan. It's a good plan. A tremendous plan! I don't mean to brag, but it is one of the finest. The need for this is clear. It's important for our organization, to me personally, and people say the change is needed. Their insights make the plan even better!  So why isn't my plan working out? Is it my fault? Am I failing as a leader because I'm afraid?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

To attract minority members, start by recruiting minority volunteers

By Joshua Rice

In Minnesota 4-H we've recently been doing a lot of thinking about recruiting first-generation participants -- those whose parents were never involved in 4-H. One question that tends to float to the top of the discussion is how to attract and engage minority populations. This led me to ponder, what are some innovative strategies that could attract first-generation minority youth into 4-H?
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