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Youth, sustainability, and decision-making

By Dylan Kelly In June of 2017, Jayathma Wickramanayake was appointed the first United Nations Envoy on Youth. She was charged with engaging young people as critical thinkers, change-makers, innovators, communicators, and leaders in the support of a more sustainable world. Through the efforts of her office, young people are contributing their ideas, energy, and leadership to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals . How can we support youth in attaining these goals? We can do this by asking young people to consider the  social, environmental, and economic impacts  of their decisions. For example, I worked with a group of 4-H youth leaders who had an important decision to make. They had to decide which fundraiser to implement for their county 4-H program. Their options included continuing with the annual cheese sale, switching to a coffee sale with a local roaster, or switching to a local company that sells gift items and boxes. Instead of asking, “Which option will make us the
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Professional development: Change agents in a pandemic

By Nicole Pokorney In her 2014 blog, Professional development is money in the bank for youth-serving organizations , Nancy Hegland outlines the many benefits of providing professional development to employees, such as improved program quality, increased job satisfaction and reduced stress. Her blog also describes the need for creative delivery methods. Trish Sheehan describes similar benefits in her 2018 blog, Take care of your program and your professional self . Trish continues, “ Dorie Clarke suggests professional development takes on three main forms: learning, connecting and creating. Identifying what you need to gain or improve on in each of the three areas helps you to advance your work and establish your profession.” In response to the U of M Extension Center for Youth Development's identified priority of promoting learning and hands-on activities in the outdoors for youth and families, and the increasing need for addressing inclusivity and diversity in outdoor education p

Data that sticks: Tips on how to visually communicate your data

By Somongkol Teng As a program evaluator, I’m often approached for assistance with data collection, analysis, and most importantly, reporting. People often tell me they can't create eye-catching reports or slides because they don't know graphic design or aren't computer-savvy. Good data visualization and communication require more than good computer skills; similarly, a visually appealing slide deck or report doesn’t always imply effective communication.  In this blog post, I’ll share with you five tips for how you can effectively communicate your data visually. Think of your audience(s) Different audiences (e.g. community leaders, funders, staff, parents, youth, etc.) all have different interests or needs, which can affect the choice of format and data you develop for them. A county commissioner, for example, may prefer a high-level overview of the data, whereas program staff may want something more specific, such as how to improve their program. By knowing exactly what yo

Youth as social change agents

By Kathryn Sharpe Photo by Yingchou Han on I recently heard a 4-H alum speak passionately about his current work as an activist and changemaker in his community, and he traced those roots back to his involvement in 4-H. It made me wonder, how can we best equip youth to become social change agents in our youth development programs?    Youth development can learn a great deal about this from community organizing. Community organizing engages people to identify shared issues that impact them, and then work together to build power to effect change, frequently around issues of social justice. Organizers use skills such as deep listening, identifying mutual self-interest, and highlighting the strengths and assets in individuals and a community. Youth organizing programs bring these skills together with high quality youth development practices. Youth organizing programs maximize social-emotional benefits for youth because they embed the following principles: They are fundamental

Ensuring quality youth programs through session planning

By Nicole Kudrle The last 15 months have been a rollercoaster ride, navigating programming during the coronavirus pandemic with its many ups and downs. As I reflect on my experience, I've seen tremendous growth in my program development and delivery style. While I still don’t like to watch recordings of myself leading a program, I have found it to be a way to reflect and improve as a youth development professional. I have also been extremely grateful for  Youth Program Quality Observations of the programs I have taught. These observations have provided me with feedback from a third party to allow for further development of my teaching skills.  My greatest growth has been in session planning. When I begin to prepare for a program, I still write a lesson, but I also take time to develop a plan for each session. In the development of my session plans, I work to align them with the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality Pyramid , a research based approach for youth development profe

Cultivating change

By Joseph Rand My partner Todd and I purchased ten acres in central Minnesota about four years ago, dreaming about building a house, hobby farm, and starting a small beef herd. We achieved that dream just over a year ago right before COVID hit. Last summer was spent landscaping, grading, and prepping a spot out back where a future barn will sit. One of the first neighbors we met from right next door also has a hobby farm. I remember when he pulled up on his “Kubota” (that’s how he always refers to his tractor) and said, “So, you guys are gay huh? I gotta brother who’s gay. You won’t have trouble with me, but there are other neighbors who might just steer clear of you.” While some of this introduction was problematic, the positive welcoming intention was genuine. We have since become great friends and neighbors. We didn’t know what to expect when we moved to a small rural township southwest of St. Cloud. However, we have become friends with neighbors around bonfires and the exchange of

Culturally relevant youth programs: An example from the field

By Joanna Tzenis In a recent research brief , I synthesized research that highlights the importance of ensuring that youth programs are culturally responsive--meaning that youths’ cultural experiences and perspectives are represented and included in program structure and staffing. One programmatic tip I offered for pulling this off was to be flexible with program structures and policies that might not align with participants’ culture of origin. I thought I’d share one specific experience that helped me practice flexibility in programming. This practice was as simple as making space for homework help for Somali immigrant-origin youth during their 4-H program. Rising Impact (formally Ka Joog)  and 4-H collaborated on a Take-off STEAM model , with the support of funding from the CYFAR program . We had shared goals of helping Somali youth thrive in their education and worked together to achieve this through youth programming. I learned quickly that Somali families’ culture and faith pri