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Make your youth program a pathway to higher education

By Joanna Tzenis

Youth who are in 4-H are more likely to pursue higher education than those who are not.  But what is it about the program that makes that so?

4-H takes a positive youth development (PYD) approach to placing youth on pathways to higher education. Through hands-on learning, 4-H'ers discover their passions and begin to explore them. Through leadership development, they become active agents in reaching their educational goals and acting on their passions in a way that advances society.

Each 4-H activity includes four essential elements that all young people need to achieve their aspirations for higher education.

Essential elements for achieving aspirations in higher education 1. Youth need opportunities to connect their interests and educational aspirations to concrete experiences. What this could look like in a 4-H experience:
Exploring a 4-H project area and sharing their learning with an adult.Visiting a college campus to do a chemistry lab with a current student, c…
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Mind the (research and practice) gap

By Kate Walker

Youth development researchers strive to contribute to the field’s knowledge base, influence practitioners' decision-making and improve outcomes for young people.

Translational research aims to put science to use.

Likewise, many youth development practitioners seek to ground their daily work in sound information, best practices and the latest innovations.

So why is there a disconnect between researchers and practitioners?

Practitioners rarely read peer-reviewed journal articles. Why? Most journals are hard to access and too expensive outside of academia. Even articles in free, open-access journals can be tedious to read, hard to digest and challenging for time-crunched practitioners to meaningfully translate to their everyday practice.

Most research articles aren’t designed or written to meet practitioners’ needs. Researchers are rewarded (i.e., published, tenured) for original ideas, not applicable ones. They emphasize their rigorous methods to demonstrate legitimacy…

Tales from a reviewer: How to improve your writing

By Samantha Grant

One day I would like to write a book that someone other than my mom would read. Until that dream comes true, I review writing for a number of academic publications. Those who can’t write, review!

The picture shown here is me struggling through reviewing a journal article. Note to authors: This is not the response you are trying to elicit. Also note that I did not accept this submission. I did, however, give the author some focused feedback because I always try to find the value.

I know that for many of you, writing is a chore that you hate as much as I hate vacuuming. I'll never love cleaning my carpets, but if you give me a five-point list, I might scan through it.

So in that spirit, here's a short list of writing problems I often see as a reviewer and how to fix them.

Problem: Lack of organization Organization matters most and is the hardest to fix. I can forgive wonky verb tenses and less-than-eloquent transitions because editing those problems is easy. Wha…

How can youth programs help the Greta Thunbergs of the world to emerge?

By Rebecca Meyer

In recent weeks, we've seen youth around the world pushing for action on the climate crisis. One of the influencers mobilizing people to act is Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old from Sweden. She is not the only young leader to tackle this monumental challenge. Young people started their own movements because they saw a need for action -- and a lack of it from adult leaders.

Their global influence has me wondering how we can foster more change makers through our youth programs. What does it take for such transformative influence to emerge?

Through the lens of the program innovation model, change-making starts with people who are willing to try innovative strategies. Support for change-making comes from family, friends and others. Two more factors help people to take an innovative leap: The first is engaging change-makers in teams that help them understand different world views, identify and feel comfortable taking action. The second is providing them with effective app…

Journey mapping: See your program through the eyes of 4-H families

By Somongkol Teng

Are you wondering if your youth program offers a positive experience to youth and their families? Are you wondering what their journey through your program is like? Are you looking for in-depth information and stories about their experiences that a quantitative survey might not reveal?

If you say “yes” to any or all of these questions, you should try journey mapping, a revealing evaluation method.

What is journey mapping? Journey mapping has its origins in customer experience and human-centered design. It's an evaluation method that can help you to visualize a customer’s journey through a program or service. In other words, a journey map can show you the path a stakeholder — youth, family member, volunteer or staff — takes through your program. It can reveal where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Research on customer experience shows that every touchpoint a customer has with your organization has an impact on their interest, satisfaction and loyalty.

Beyond visu…

A process for advancing equity in youth programs

By Kate Walker

Originally published in EdWeekEditor's Intro: Youth development and community-based organizations are taking steps to address diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today, Kate Walker, University of Minnesota Extension professor and specialist in youth work practice, describes the process the Extension Center for Youth Development used to create consensus around barriers to, and strategies for, advancing equity in youth programs.

There are many different interpretations of the word "equity." For us at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, we define equity as promoting just and fair inclusion and creating the conditions in which all young people can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. In other words, equity is everyone having what they need to be successful. As we began developing a learning series for youth workers focused on exploring and advancing equity in youth programs, we recognized that we are not experts …

Your unspoken thoughts could be holding young people back

By Jessica Pierson Russo

They say dogs can “smell fear.” Can kids smell when we don’t really respect them?

We're at parent-teacher conferences. My son's teacher says, “Overall, your son is doing fine in my class.” I nod. My husband nods. I look over at my son at the end of the table about four feet away. He’s resting his chin in his hands, and he looks tense. She goes on, “He has had his moments of teenage angst, but that’ll pass." My son’s eyes freeze over with resentment. There it is, I think to myself. There’s the tension. I look back at the teacher, who continues to talk, oblivious to the chasm she’s just carved between herself and her student.

This experience reminded me what an impact our thoughts have when we're working with youth. Using positive youth development in our work is supposed to help us recognize and build the strengths in young people.

But what happens when our thoughts get in the way of effective practice? Am I viewing this young person as an incom…