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Creating inclusive volunteer opportunities for individuals with disabilities

By Jennifer Cable The interest and desire to volunteer is evident in Minnesota. In Minnesota 4-H, over 6,000 volunteers contributed their time, talents and strengths to the 4-H community during the 2020-2021 program year. Motivations for volunteering with 4-H  include supporting a child in 4-H, helping others and making a difference . Felicia Lee (pictured), a Ramsey County 4-H volunteer, says she seeks out opportunities where she is able to work with youth. For Lee, volunteering has helped her gain different life skills such as communication, creative thinking, self-awareness, and being able to connect with good people. While motivation for volunteering remains high, individuals with disabilities are underrepresented in volunteer agencies . One U.S. study found that individuals with disabilities account for only 5.7% of the current volunteer pool. Considering the fact that 26% of the U.S. population has some type of disability , a disparity exists between the number of people with di
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Finding rest in a restless world

By Jeremy Freeman In many facets of our lives we have made busyness, or hurry, the driving command. The American philosopher Dallas Willard wrote that one of the biggest distractions from our own growth is hurry, and that we must 'ruthlessly eliminate hurry' from our lives. In a recent webcast I participated in, the author explained that our busyness can feel productive, but in reality it can be a toxic distraction, sapping our spiritual, physical, and emotional vitality. Consider the  following effects : Emotional health  - Busyness may lead to frustration, anger and hopelessness.  Physical health  - Busyness may lead to muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, compromised immune function and restlessness. Mental health  - Busyness may lead to anxiety, stress and a loss of agency.  We must carefully consider whether our approach to youth development is driving some of these same effects.  Research analyzed by the CDC on sleep  suggests that nearly 60% of students in grades 6 - 8 a

The stress of grief

By Emily Krekelberg Most people accept the well-known five stages of grief as a guideline for the healing process. The problem with this is those five stages don’t necessarily fit in all types of loss. These stages also assume that at some point, the grief will end. In some situations, grief can be disrupted for a period. In others, the grief may last for years. Grief can have a profound impact on our health, both mental and physical, so it’s crucial that we accept and confront it. This is especially true for youth. Identifying youth experiencing grief and providing them support for these complex feelings can help them develop resiliency early.   Ambiguous loss Seeking support for our grief can sometimes be difficult, especially if the grief we feel is not seen or recognized by others. A clear loss like death can make it easier to grieve more socially. Some losses, however, are not as clear. Ambiguous loss is when a loss is not clear, and thus may not be validated by others. The lack

Gen Z and youth voice

By Karyn Santl I recently listened to a youth panel share their perspective on issues, trends and assets in their lives. I was gently reminded of the importance of youth voice and gaining their perspective. Yes, I work for a youth development organization, but I mainly work with staff and volunteers so I do not interact with youth on a regular basis.   The youth panel was convened at our statewide Extension Conference and the youth were from different parts of the state. They had all participated in Minnesota 4-H in different programs and lengths of time. They are all part of Generation Z, born in the mid-late 1990’s to early 2010’s. The panel facilitator shared this quote from the  EY Gen Z Insight Report, 2021 : Gen Z is different. They will not be put in a box. They defy labels. And they are here to challenge your perspective of the world. Gen Z is shifting societal paradigms, creating new norms around activism, wellness, and success. Here is what I learned from this panel of youth

Volunteer trends and adaptations that work

By Marisa Coyne  & Becky Harrington While some trend forecasters attend Paris Fashion Week and others comb Instagram metadata to spot the next big thing, leaders of volunteers look to academic papers, industry reports, and conference proceedings to understand the changing needs and demands of current and prospective volunteers. Volunteer scholars suggest that, in order for youth developers and other leaders of volunteers to build strong and sustainable volunteer systems, they need to question dominant norms and delivery models and adapt accordingly . In this season of trend forecasting, we share what’s 'in' in volunteer engagement.  Trend #1: Intention to volunteer is high … so is overwhelm US respondents to a pandemic-era volunteerism survey reported record-high intention to volunteer . At the same time, people living in the US are experiencing record-high stress and overwhelm . Youth-serving organizations who work with volunteers to deliver programs should establish volu

It’s all about the money: Three ways to share your program’s value

By Jaime Ballard " Investing " by  401(K) 2013  is licensed under  CC BY-SA 2.0 . I work for the Center for Research and Outreach (REACH) Lab conducting analyses and disseminating research from the REACH Lab to researchers and policy makers.  What is something you’ve bought that you feel great about?  When my first baby was born, we bought a cradle swing, and it was the only place the baby would sleep! I would walk by my sweet baby sleeping in the swing and think, “That is the best $80 that has ever been spent.” This is exactly the feeling we want our funders to have about our youth work – that they clearly see the benefits of their investment. Return on investment (ROI) is a way to show a program’s value in dollars.  Here are three ways we can use this approach in youth programming:    Share return on investment statements in your focus area Sharing even one sentence of the research on ROI in your focus area can help stakeholders see their funding as an investment, rather t

Keeping youth safe: Teen dating violence and the role of youth workers

By Sarah Odendahl In a few short days, October will be here. October brings notable holidays like Halloween and Indigenous People’s Day, and it is also National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, takes many forms. One of those forms is what’s known as dating violence. A 2019 CDC survey showed that 1 in 12 U.S. high school students who had dated in the previous 12 months had experienced physical and/or sexual dating violence. The CDC states that “teen dating violence profoundly impacts lifelong health, opportunity, and wellbeing.” Can youth workers have an impact on teen dating violence? Research suggests yes. A 2022 study that spanned 25 New England high schools showed that youth who underestimated school staff’s response to teen dating violence had less intention to personally intervene in situations of dating violence. The same group reported higher belief in rape myths and higher denial of responsibility for dating violen