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Showing posts from June, 2022

Using person-centered thinking

By Darcy Cole As youth development professionals, we plan many experiences for young people and we sincerely try our best to think about (from our own personal perspective and lens) what is best for them and what we think they should do or learn. However, we may not ask often enough what is important to them, and what they want to do, learn or experience. This may be because it seems easier for us to speak on behalf of youth than it is to empower them to be their own voice. We may also think that we know what they want or sometimes we may even have our own agendas that we want to promote.  Person-centered thinking provides a way for us to empower youth to be their own voice and advocate for themselves in our programs.    The concept of person-centered thinking (PCT) is used most often in the disability field. It can, however, be beneficial for those in youth development. PCT is about identifying both what is important TO a person and what is important FOR a person while also identifyi

Cultivating identity formation in youth programs through authenticity

By Jessica Pierson Russo As a young boy, my son had a volatile temper. One day, in trouble again at his afterschool program, instead of the usual reprimand, I saw three friends (one of whom my son had just hit) assuring him that he could control himself. They hugged him, and in humble gratitude, I took a picture. This moment had provided him a sense of safety and acceptance during a difficult time in his identity formation—he hated himself for his lack of control. The youth program played an important role in helping him move on from this years-long struggle. I believe authenticity was a key factor.   Authenticity—the extent to which we can be our true selves without hiding—may seem like a utopian ideal—afterall, the process of getting to know oneself, especially in teenhood, can be messy, and depending on the behavior involved, we may not always be able to accommodate a particular child’s struggle. But identity formation is a vital part of adolescent health, and youth programs have th

Equity-informed volunteer recognition: Three shifts in practice

By Marisa A. Coyne Volunteer recognition is a proven volunteer retention strategy for nonprofit organizations. However, many formal recognition approaches are designed to celebrate volunteers with long tenures and leadership roles, meaning volunteers with fewer years of service or more informal roles go overlooked. As youth development organizations prioritize diversity, equity, and justice in volunteer engagement, volunteer diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and age is on the rise.  Focusing on tenure and status-based volunteer recognition practices risks leaving out those new volunteers whose social identities may not be reflected in the current volunteer population. This presents an equity issue which can be mitigated by three shifts in practice inspired by Tema Okun’s work on dismantling racism in institutions. Okun encourages readers to be mindful of how the norms of quantity over quality, power hoarding, and one-right-way can show up in organizational practices. By

Are you ready for change?

By Nancy Hegland Over the past few weeks, I have received news of several changes that will affect me in both my professional and personal life. Some of these changes are welcome, while some cause me concern. I know that change is constant and that how I am able to adjust and accept the changes will make all the difference. As youth development professionals, we are asked to guide youth as they change and grow into adults. We are called to be agents of change, to take what is and make it into what could be. As change agents, we not only guide youth through changes, we work with individuals, groups, and communities to improve the quality of youth’s lives. In youth development, some of the changes we face are related to finding youth workers to staff programs, getting kids back involved in programs after COVID, and recruiting volunteers to work with youth programs. In a Journal of Extension article, Agents of Change: Thoughts on Youth Development ( ), Karen Teague discusses both