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Let’s help illuminate STEM career pathways for youth

By Rebecca Meyer I recently encountered a video clip from the renowned Minnesota author, Nora McInerny, where she states a response to the question: “What is something you didn’t know until an embarrassingly late age?” Her response: “I was in college, late college, an honors college student before I realized engineering majors were not learning to drive trains.” I find that all too often, the careers into which young people aspire are opaque. Like Nora’s perceptions of engineering, these youth may not really know what’s involved or necessary to navigate a successful pathway into their chosen career. This has me wondering more about the types of support that are important to help youth chart these pathways, especially as it relates to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). In STEM, we often focus on initiating sparks using the engineering design process or science inquiry through a variety of programs and activities, like the 4-H Engineering Design Challenge program.
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From languishing to flourishing

By Nicole Pokorney No one can argue that the last two years haven’t been difficult for everyone. As we emerge from the pandemic and restrictions, people are experiencing the emergence in different ways. There are days that I find myself full of energy and zest, and then other days I feel drained and unmotivated to even do the things that once brought me joy. I was struggling with what was going on and searching for ways to ignite my passion for youth work and my pre-pandemic life. I did a lot of reading, listening, and writing in my attempt to unlock a remedy. I found my answer in a February, 2022 episode of The Happiness Lab podcast . Psychologist and writer Adam Grant revealed the concept of languishing . Adam describes this feeling as the "middle child between mental illness and mental well-being", and that it can truly be described as feeling "meh". As I found myself with piles of work undone, phone calls not returned and, after a week of hard work, a bunch of e

Could asset framing transform us?

By Kathryn Sharpe What if the language that we use as we try to advance equity and inclusion is actually denigrating the very people and communities with whom we are seeking to work? How does the story that we tell about young people affect the ways that we engage with them? Asset framing is a cognitive framework that addresses these questions and which I have recently found to be deeply impactful for me as both a youth work professional and as an individual. Asset-based language was first developed in the educational sector , and Search Institute pioneered a focus on developmental assets in youth development. But recently, asset framing has been championed by Trabian Shorters, the founder and CEO of the BMe Community and a thought leader in bringing this concept to the world of business and philanthropy. He states that it is “defining people by their aspirations and contributions, before you get to their challenges.” He explains that no one goes around thinking of themselves as vu

Five steps to enhance your volunteer recruitment

By Jeremy Freeman Effective volunteer recruitment is an intentional process that is backed by solid strategies and a clear plan. While there are certainly times when a desperate plea for immediate help can solicit a short-term solution, recruitment will occur best by following some simple steps. Consider these five steps to enhance your volunteer recruitment this season. 1. Appeal to the individual (skills and traits) Not every job can be filled by any person. Specific responsibilities require individual skills and traits to accomplish the work effectively. Identifying the individual skills and traits you are looking for allows you to hone your recruitment towards an individual's strengths and motivations. Does a role require someone who is a problem solver? What about someone who enjoys serving? By connecting roles to character traits we can more readily connect an opportunity to someone's personal motivation and sense of purpose. 2. Connect the role to the impact Helping the

Supporting aspirations and building pathways to future opportunities: Youth perspectives

By Jennifer Cable Youth programs are an effective way to support youths' aspirations and pathways to future opportunities in education and career. Aspirations are future-oriented and are “ indicative of an individual or group’s commitments towards a particular trajectory or end point .”  In one Minnesota 4-H program, implemented in partnership with the Moundsview School District Equity Team*, a group of nine youth engaged in a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) project using the YPAR Stepping Stones framework. The purpose of their project was to capture how the pandemic has changed the ways families and young people think about school and family-school-youth partnerships, and consider what new opportunities have been created for such partnerships. Campus visits were integrated into their project experience, providing intentional opportunities for the youth participants to meet current college students and faculty, share their plans for the future and explore the Universit

Supporting youth mental health

By Sarah Odendahl In spring of 2008, I was a junior in high school struggling with the fallout from a recent breakup.  One day I walked into the band rehearsal room - a class I shared with my ex-boyfriend and about 50 other teens - feeling particularly upset. When I saw my ex walk in, suddenly it felt like all the oxygen left my body. I couldn’t catch my breath, the warm-up noises were overwhelming, and I didn’t know what to do. A good friend pulled me from the room and sat on the floor of the hallway with me until I could get a deep breath again. Looking back on it now, that breakup doesn’t elicit much emotional response, but to teenage Sarah it cut incredibly deep. I was coping the best I could, and learning social-emotional skills along the way, but I didn’t have the language to address what I later learned was the first of several panic attacks I would suffer that spring. In 2010, a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that one in

Balancing work and personal life

By Karyn Santl I am preparing for a presentation titled “Balancing Life” for our statewide staff development conference. I was encouraged by a staff member I supervise to submit a proposal on this topic after we had a discussion about workload, prioritizing, and balancing life. Youth development work regularly requires long hours, including nights and weekends and youth workers frequently find themselves in conflict among the demands of their time and energy between clientele, administrators and family. ( Stark et al, 2012 ). I have been supervising frontline 4-H Youth Development professionals for the past 20 years with the Minnesota 4-H program. Here are four tips I have given staff throughout my years as a supervisor: Mark days off on your calendar - birthdays, sports schedules, last day of harvest, etc. to protect what is important to you. Take a week-long (or longer) vacation at least once a year. We all need a break from work and we will come back more refreshed. Know your limits