We all know that the biggest plagues causing commotion in our societies is lack of youth development. We need to step outside of the box for a bit and look at what is happening, where we are and what can be done to remedy the situations.
What is youth development?
… the ongoing growth process in which all youth are engaged in attempting to (1) meet their basic personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, be valued, be useful, and be spiritually grounded, and (2) to build skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives.”
– (Pittman, 1993)
Youth development, then, is a combination of all of the people, places, supports, opportunities and services that most of us inherently understand that young people need to be happy, healthy and successful. Youth development currently exists in a variety of different places, forms and under all sorts of different names.
There are many efforts to define the outcomes of youth development, and while language may differ from place to place most express the results that most people want for their own children, those outcomes are as the following:
|Aspects of Identity||Areas of Ability|
Youth development is not a highly sophisticated and complicated prescription for “fixing those troubled kids.” Youth development is about people, programs, institutions and systems who provide all youth—”troubled” or not—with the supports and opportunities they need to empower themselves. For a nation with such a rich diversity of youth, this requires youth development in all shapes and sizes:
- An adult who volunteers time to mentor or tutor a young person;
- A school that partners with community-based organizations to keep its doors open until 10 pm and provide all youth a safe, supervised place to be with homework support, activities, physical and mental health services;
- A leadership development program that offers rival gang members neutral territory where they can relate to one another as individuals and build skills;
- A city government that engages youth in the policy making process through youth councils and youth positions in government departments;
- A religious institution that provides youth access to computers and the necessary training; and
- A local business which employs youth in meaningful and relevant work.
This is only a start of what and how we can go about doing the right ground work for change to happen.