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11/01 - 12/31
Human Services Workshops/GSS host various workshops.

12/16
JASA Elder Abuse Training Institute Workshop 2

01/01 - 02/28
Human Services Workshops/GSS host various workshops

01/13
BBB Workshop: Keep Your Business Healthy

01/29
Social Work Information Session at the Hudson Valley Center

02/19
JASA Elder Abuse Training Institute Workshop 3

02/24
2015 BBB Charity Effectiveness Symposium

03/08
CHEF DANIEL BOULUD HOSTS ANNUAL SUNDAY SUPPER AT DANIEL BENEFITTING CITYMEALS-ON-WHEELS

03/18
JASA Elder Abuse Training Institute Workshop 4

03/20
Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie to Hosts Open Your Heart Cocktail Concert

Jennifer Siaca PDF Print E-mail

Jennifer Siaca's blog will highlight trends, news, and emerging research on youth services.  The blog will discuss the full range of youth issues, including education, health services, afterschool and summer programs, and other social services. Jennifer Siaca works in the out-of-school time field on statewide policy and program initiatives and is a native New Yorker.

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avatar LaKenya Overton
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"HELLO COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATIONS" Project Yes-A new youth- service program is starting in East Harlem and we are looking to connect with other programs to provide linkages with one another services. PLEASE if interested send me your contact info (email, address, phone number) to ltoverton@phoenixhouse.org so, I can send you a one page program description. At some point my colleague and I will come by and meet with you and your staff.

Spread Far!

Thanks again,
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Have you taken the DonorsChoose challenge yet?

So far, our donations along with those of others have fully funded four of the six projects listed on my DonorsChoose challenge page. Each of these projects supports children in high-need communities in New York City. One project had 45 (!) unique donors who each gave a small amount to make a big difference. In honor of NYC’s children, and in the holiday spirit, please consider visiting http://bit.ly/9RPU4S to support one of these very important projects. If you can give a little, we can help a lot!
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Join Me in Supporting NYC-Area Classrooms: A Challenge!

In the spirit of the holiday season, I have an exciting invitation for you to join me in supporting four deserving classrooms in New York City that are in need of our help. As you likely know, DonorsChoose is an online charity; teachers post requests for support for their classrooms directly to the site, and donors of all kinds can make a secure donation to classrooms that they select. There is no minimum donation, so everyone can be a philanthropist at DonorsChoose.

I have selected these four projects because they address critical issues, are located in very high-need communities, and are seeking reasonable amounts of support. There are many generous individuals in NYNP’s community of readers, and I can’t think of a better way for us to work together in this small way to make BIG change happen in these classrooms.

To view our giving page (just for readers of this blog!), please visit http://bit.ly/9RPU4S. Here is a brief summary of the projects we are going to fund, but full details are on the website.

Physical Activity for a Lifetime (Brooklyn):
According to this teacher, this school has never had an organized physical education program and they need some supplies to get their kids moving. The school is in a very low-income community where it is not safe for kids to play outdoors outside of the school. Most students live in public housing, and 90% of the students qualify for free lunch.

Teen Pregnancy Intervention (Brooklyn):
This project will help create a pregnancy prevention program in a high-need school. According to the guidance counselor, young women in the school face a variety of social and emotional obstacles, and often rely on attention from young men to mitigate their feelings. The program is intended to teach young women about what motherhood is like and to help them make educated decisions about their relationships with young men.

Growing Gardeners Academy (Washington Heights):

According to this teacher, members of the newly created gardening club “explored for themselves the joy of cultivating the soil, working in community gardens, and partaking in nature walks. They are hungry for more knowledge and greater results as we work on new outdoor projects this year… They are a combination of twelve 8th and 7th graders who signed up to work in the school garden three times a week afterschool. Twice a month they attend trips outside the school community to various community organizations who have gardens, parks etc.”

Biotechnology Needs You! (Bronx):

This small school in the South Bronx uses hands-on, project-based activities to help students learn about and develop an interest in science. The school is facing budget cuts and fears this program will be cut. They are seeking supplies for their labs.

Interested in helping? Visit http://bit.ly/9RPU4S to support one or all of these important projects!
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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NBC's School Pride: Definitely Worth Watching

NBC’s School Pride is a television show that, based on video submissions from students and schools across the country, picks a school with aging and unsafe facilities and gives it a total renovation. Similar to other renovation-real ity shows, the School Pride team works within a very short time frame and uses a huge crew of professionals and people from the community. However, School Pride is a fascinating watch for anyone interested not only in bricks and mortar, but in education and how learning environments effect student achievement. In fact, last week’s episode was about a rural school in Needles, CA where a significant proportion of the students participate in a vocational program – while the show didn’t dig into the debate of vocational preparation, they did do a nice job of telling the town’s story about why this program was critical to the students’ job options and why the vocational program’s facilities were in serious need of repair.

At School Pride’s website, www.nbc.com/schoolpride, you can learn more about the show and the schools they have worked with. If you click on the My School Pride tab, you can vote for a school to win a computer lab from the show. You can vote once a day through November 29th.

School Pride is a very interesting show, and it’s nice to see youth development and education issues on a TV show that is helping kids and communities. Like the concept? Consider showing your support by following them on Twitter (@NBCSchoolPride) or liking them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NBCSchoolPride).

School Pride airs at 8pm on Friday evenings on NBC.
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avatar Nancy C
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New York has its own, 15+ year old organization that does something very similar, without as much hoopla. Publicolor works to transform the environment of underperforming public schools in NYC, transforming students, and learning environment, instilling work ethic and pride in a job well done. Then they support students with tutoring, ongoing training and employment, etc. as they continue to transform new schools and local nonprofit organizations.

Check them out at www.publicolor.org
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Nancy - Thank you so much for mentioning Publicolor. This is, in fact, a great resource right here in New York! If you're interested in School Pride, please do check out their website.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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The Big Announcement: NYC’s New Chancellor

Within 24 hours, Mayor Bloomberg’s selection of Cathie Black as the new Chancellor of the NYC public education system became old news… a ton of reporting, analyzing, supporting, and criticizing has already been done. I won’t do any of those things here, but I will provide links to some of the more interesting and informative articles written about Ms. Black and the Mayor’s choice for the next leader of our schools from a variety of perspectives and interests. You decide: will Ms. Black be good for NYC’s children?

Schools Chief Has Much in Common With Boss
NY Times
http://nyti.ms/cRlJNR

Early thoughts on Joel Klein, Cathie Black and education reform in New York
The Washington Post (written by Dana Goldstein – a writer on education reform worth following at www.danagoldstein.net/)
http://wapo.st/9Or5mT

Three Reasons Why You Should Be Upset About Cathie Black, New NYC Schools Chancellor
The Village Voice
http://bit.ly/cgO9yk

Bloomberg Names Publishing Exec to Replace Klein as Schools Chancellor
NY1
http://bit.ly/cxV38V

Filling Superman Joel Klein's Shoes
The Daily Beast
http://bit.ly/9UOO49
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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@Education and Youth Development – Resources on Twitter

From time to time, I like to provide a round-up of news, blogs, and other information sources on the web. It’s amazing how much information you can learn from Twitter; I get a lot of my education news from this one resource without having to search all over the internet. Here’s a list of some of the people and organizations I follow on Twitter.

Government Agencies:

@NYCMayorsOffice
Check here for updates from the Administration of Michael R. Bloomberg, New York City’s 108th Mayor.

@NYCDYCD
DYCD was created in 1996 to provide the City of New York with high-quality youth programs. (Complete with NYC Twitter customer use policy: http://www.nyc.gov/socialmediapoli cy, for any technology buffs looking to learn more.)

@NYCSchools
The NYC Department of Education is the largest system of schools in the US.

@usedgov US Dept of Education
News and information from the U.S Department of Education. (Want to be the first to know about who won federal grants? Check out @usedgov!)

Helpful Organizations and Initiatives:



@educationweek
Education Week, American education's newspaper and website of record.

@ChildrenNature
The Children & Nature Network was created to support people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. Host: Suz Lipman

@WaitingSuperman
Nuff’ said.

@NextGenLC
The Next Generation Learning Challenges are aimed at dramatically improving college readiness and completion by harnessing the power of technology.

@CampLeadership
Co-Founder of CampLeadership.org and Camping Services Director with Charlotte YMCA. My goal is to be a resource of idea sharing for camping professionals.

@summerlearning
The mission of the National Summer Learning Association is to connect and equip schools and community organizations to deliver quality summer learning programs.

@after_school
TASC is dedicated to giving all kids opportunities to grow through after-school and summer activities that support, educate and inspire them.

Interesting People:

@MattheaMarquart (NYNP blogger!)
Fascinated by learning, e-learning, training, professional development, online PD, technology in education, improving teacher quality, revolutionizing education

@DanaGoldstein
Spencer Education Journalism Fellow. Reporter and writer on schools, health, politics, and women's issues.

And, last but certainly not least…

@NYNP_Fred
Fred Scaglione is Editor of the New York Nonprofit Press.

You can follow me, too – I tweet everytime I blog and occasionally share information of interest to educators and youth developers. I can be found at @JenSiaca.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Great Resource: FindYouthInfo.gov

If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend visiting FindYouthInfo.gov, a federal website with tons of information for all sorts of youth programs. According to their website, “FindYouthInfo.gov was created by the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP), which is composed of representatives from 12 Federal agencies that support programs and services focusing on youth.”

The website includes:

--Youth Topics: This section provides links to resources in four areas, including bullying, afterschool programs, positive youth development, and transition age youth.

--Map My Community: This tool helps to locate resources in communities, which can spur ideas for partnerships, identify areas of need, and help to streamline services at the local level.

--Evidence-Base d Program Directory: The directory includes programs that have had proven results, and includes a program overview, evaluation information, and outcomes. You can search the directory by risk factors (e.g. exposure to violence) or protective factors (e.g. positive peer involvement.

--Funding Information Center: This section includes details about applying for federal funding.

--Collaboration Center: Through this part of the website, you can access information about developing successful partnerships.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Remembering the Children of Hurricane Katrina

Last weekend marked the five year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The impact of the hurricane, and now the BP oil spill, has truly taken a toll on the Gulf Coast’s children and youth. In an August 2010 study released by the Children’s Health Fund and Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, the sad reality faced by children in this region is brought to light. The study highlights the following information:

--60% of children displaced by Katrina to congregate settings, such as trailer parks or hotels, either have serious emotional disorders, behavioral issues, and/or are experiencing significant housing instability.

--Children displaced by Katrina were 4.5 times more likely to have symptoms consistent with serious emotional disturbance (SED) than did comparable children surveyed in a 2004 national study.

--After four and a half years, nearly half the households who had been displaced for at least one year after the hurricane were still living in unstable conditions—either in transient housing or in other circumstances that couldn’t guarantee them a place to live for more than a year.

--34% of middle or high school-age children were one or more years older than appropriate for their grade in school. This is compared to 19% of all children in the south.

This report is an interesting (and sobering) read for any youth professional looking at issues of poverty, displacement, crisis management, and instability in children’s lives. You can read the full report here: http://bit.ly/b9JH8d. To learn more about helping those affected by Hurricane Katrina, visit the Salvation Army’s website or other disaster relief agencies that continue to provide critical services in this region.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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The Great Recession’s Impact on Youth

Two interesting reports were recently released regarding the recession’s impact on children and youth. First, the Foundation for Child Development released the 2010 Child Well-Being Index, which was the first report to offer comprehensive data on the impact of the Great Recession on American children's quality-of-life. Highlights (or, lowlights) of the study include:
--The impact of the recession on children is reaching new lows in 2010.
--The recession will wipe out virtually all progress for children since 1975, in the Family Economic Well-being Domain.
--The rate of children living in poverty in 2010 will be the highest in 20 years.
--The number of detached youth will increase in 2010.
--Risky behaviors will increase in 2010.
--Child obesity will continue to rise, bringing down the Health Domain.

The full report can be accessed at http://bit.ly/ahVYzQ.

Secondly, the Coalition on Human Needs released “The Recession Generation,” which found that there is “growing evidence that without immediate action the effects of the Great Recession will linger for years, causing lasting damage to children and young adults.” Furthermore, the report calls upon Congress to take action on jobs, child care, nutrition assistance, tax credits, and youth employment to lessen the economic burden on families and youth. The report notes the significant changes in poverty rates over the last several years:

“In 2008, the first year of the recession, 14.1 million children in America, or one in five, were poor — an increase of 800,000 from 2007. All indications are that when the 2009 poverty data are released in September 2010, we will see another significant jump in poverty. Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute have estimated that because of the severity of this recession, about one in four children are now poor.”

This report can be accessed at http://bit.ly/cuvjI1.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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5 Things Every Youth Worker Should Do This Summer

I could not believe my eyes when I got to work today and my calendar reminded me that it is August. Though it seems too cliché to remark that the summer is flying by… it is! So, in honor of what we have left of summer, here are five things every youth worker should do before the fall is here. While you’re likely still quite busy over the summer, these are important things to consider attending to before September rolls around and you’re back to your regularly scheduled programming.

1. Take some time for yourself. As you know from my earlier posts, I think it’s critical for youth workers, and other non-profit professionals, to take care of themselves in addition to taking care of others. The summer months provide a great opportunity to spend some energy on taking care of yourself, and hopefully provide the flexibility needed to do so. You don’t need to go far – a staycation is the perfect way to kick back and relax.

2. Participate in at least one workshop, conference, or other professional learning experience. Ok, once you’ve taken some time for yourself, consider participating in some type of professional development. This can be a local or national conference, a workshop run by your agency, or an online learning experience. It’s all too easy to push off your own learning during the year when there are numerous other priorities in the way.

3. Read something that is interesting and related to your work, but not required. There are too many organizations with excellent publications to list, but consider checking out the websites of P/PV, The Wallace Foundation, the National Summer Learning Association, The Forum for Youth Investment, National Institute on Out-of-School Time, the Journal of Adolescent Health, and/or Harvard Family Research Project. This is a great time to catch up on the latest news and research from these national experts.

4. Attend or host a networking event. People tend to be more social during the summer. Capitalize on this by attending or hosting an event where people can informally chat about their work and careers. Relationships are key to getting work done effectively and staying connected with potential partners.

5. Establish a new goal for the coming year. This is a great time to create a goal that isn’t necessarily part of your strategic vision or work plan. Perhaps your aim is to approach your work with a different perspective, or to be more efficient when it comes to specific tasks. Take the time now to set yourself up for a great year!
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Youth Workers: Schools Need You!

In a recently published study commissioned by The Wallace Foundation, stakeholder relationships were described as being a key factor in school leadership and its impact on student learning. The following is an excerpt from “Learning From Leadership: Investigating the Links to Improved Student Learning,” which can be found at: http://bit.ly/9DZok6.

…the concept of engagement appears as a key component of effective leadership because it implies more than superficial connections. Engagement and Stakeholder Influences is the broader descriptor; it acknowledges that, in their efforts to improve student learning, successful leaders make real connections with people inside and outside their professional world. We found that higher-performi ng schools generally solicit more input and engagement from a wider variety of stakeholders and provide for greater influence from teacher teams, parents, and students. Also, leadership in higher-performi ng schools is more intense because there are more interests being considered.

The implications of this study for the youth development field are numerous. Most importantly, youth development specialists and other stakeholders who work with young people outside of the classroom (counselors, psychologists, substance abuse specialists, mentors, etc.) can have a real impact on student learning when they work in partnership with principles and other school leaders. This study provides concrete evidence of the impact of collaboration. We know that working in partnership is easier said than done, but this study makes it seem well worth the effort.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Quick Tips for Effective Program Evaluation

As you know from a previous post, I attended the U.S. DOE’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers conference in June. One session, titled “Evaluation 101,” focused on the basics of a strong evaluation plan for youth development programs. I found the step-by-step framework to be quite useful in making a big topic (data collection and evaluation) seem quite manageable. Here are the steps suggested by the Georgia Department of Education.

Step 1: Conduct a needs assessment.
Needs assessments might include: survey results, census data, school data, comparisons of local and state data, community organization profiles, etc. The needs assessment should also look at multiple levels of need (e.g. youth, schools, families, etc.) instead of just focusing on the children in the community. Things like unemployment, literacy, reliance on sibling care, and high school completion rates may not directly relate to the children to be served, but can show needs and gaps in services in the community.

Step 2: Establish goals, objectives, and activities.
First, establish a threshold, or the percent of participants you intend to impact. Next, establish your targeted population (should likely be “regularly-parti cipating youth” – not all youth enrolled or any child who has attended a program once, which would be unrealistic). Then, establish an anticipated change in behaviors, skills, attitudes, etc. – whatever you’re trying to affect. Finally, determine what types of assessments you’ll need and how often they need to be used to collect the data needed to evaluate the program. Note that it’s always useful to use a logic model that connects your resources (or, inputs), activities, outputs (e.g. number children served), and outcomes (e.g. impact on children served).
Quick tip: you can use a higher threshold by targeting your population well. For example, you could say, “15% of all participants will show improved behavior.” This sounds quite low, but the fact may be that only 20% of all participants actually need to show improved behavior. Therefore, you might instead say, “75% of participants in need of improvement will improve their behavior.”

Step 3: Create an evaluation schedule.
This should include what will happen, when it will happen, and who will get it done. Your schedule should include a formative evaluation (mid-course) and a summative evaluation (final outputs and outcomes).

Step 4: Collect and analyze data.
Some data collection is easier than others. Be sure to have a plan for what to do if surveys are not returned in a timely fashion or there is a delay in collecting information from a partnering organization. It’s also important to connect your findings to action steps in areas in need of improvement.

Step 5: Disseminate your results.
Evaluation results should be connected to your marketing plan – tell others what great work you’re doing! Moreover, evaluation can help your organization to make service improvements, which are also worth advertising.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Reflections on an Inspiring Speech

Every once in a while, I have the absolute pleasure of hearing a leader in the youth services field speak at a conference or an event. At last week’s U.S. Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Centers conference, Geoffrey Canada, President of Harlem Children’s Zone, was a plenary speaker. Many of us know a great deal about the work that HCZ has done, but listening to Mr. Canada speak never gets old. I’d like to share a few interesting highlights from his talk, in no particular order:

--Nobody else is coming to help. He noted that a pivotal point in his career was when he realized that saving the children in his community was his personal responsibility, because nobody else was going to take on this work. This probably holds true for many of the communities that we serve.

--We should expect the same goals for the youth we serve as the ones we have for our own children. There is no reason to differentiate what we strive for based on where we come from or what our backgrounds are.

--Develop a plan that will work, and find the resources later. If you try to work in the other direction, you end up with full funding for a mediocre program that may or may not achieve outcomes.

--Accountabilit y is everything. Mr. Canada made a promise to fire himself if his schools weren’t performing better than other schools in Harlem within five years. Needless to say, he is still employed.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Taking Care of You, So You Can Take Care of Others

Over the last few days, I realized that I’ve been neglecting my NYNP blog a bit. It wasn’t on purpose, but I’ve had a lot going on over the last few weeks: meeting deadlines, attending events, squeezing in workouts, helping out friends, working on two new volunteer projects, and yes, occasionally blocking time to sit on the couch in front of the TV to recover from the other aforementioned activities.

As a fellow non-profit professional, I’m sure you can relate to what I’ve described above. Moreover, we’re all facing budget cuts, more work divided among fewer staff, and an ever-growing list of needs and demands. Now that I’m reflecting on all of this, I’ve recognized that we really need to take care of ourselves in order to serve others in a high-quality, high-impact way. Particularly for those of us who work with kids and families, we need to be at our best in order to best serve them. When we don’t take time for ourselves, we end up stressed, rushed, and sometimes just plain old cranky. I strongly believe that we aren’t able to provide stellar services when we’re in this state of mind. In my case, I didn’t want to write a sub-par blog entry because I was trying to do 5 other things at the same time; I had to prioritize my To Dos and wait until I had the time to craft a (hopefully) interesting and relevant article.*

Sometimes carving out time to make it to the gym or enjoy a home-cooked meal is what we need to do our jobs better. So, this is a reminder to us all (myself included) to take time for ourselves when we need it, to enjoy our work and enjoy our non-professiona l lives, and to recognize our boundaries.

*FYI: I have some great topics to write about in the coming weeks… stay tuned!
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avatar German Rodriguez
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Very interesting article, is there more research done on the subject that you know about?
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Thanks for your response. I'm not sure if there is research done on the correlation between non-profit professionals' ability to successfully do their work and how they take care of themselves, but there sure is a lot of anecdotal evidence of this relationship. You may be interested in this section of the Family Caregiver Alliance's website, which discusses the stress of caring for a family member and how important it is for caregivers to tend to their own needs: http://bit.ly/bNiBcz.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Partnership for a Drug-Free America, in New York
On Tuesday, May 18th, hundreds of parents, educators, youth workers, law enforcement representatives, and others gathered in Long Island to discuss and learn about youth and substance abuse prevention. In Long Island, the rate of prescription drug and heroine use has risen dramatically over the last three years. These alarming statistics are inspiring many communities to take action against substance abuse among children and teens.

The event was jointly led by Partnership for a Drug-Free America, the NYS Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Long Island Youth Safety Coalition, and the District Attorneys’ offices in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The agenda focused on training attendees on preventing and identifying youth substance use and educating families about drugs and alcohol. Participants became trained facilitators for youth and parent workshops aimed at delaying and preventing substance use.

NYS OASAS Commissioner Karen Carpenter-Palum bo affirmed her agency’s commitment to preventing substance use and abuse among youth. OASES offers numerous prevention, treatment, and recovery services, which can be accessed through the agency’s website: www.oasas.state.ny.us. Notably, OASAS has plans to roll this training out in other parts of the state.

Partnership for a Drug-Free America has a wealth of resources on their website for free use by the public. In the Programs section of their website, you can access a narrated training for families, resources on specific drugs like steroids and methamphetamine, and a site specifically for young people to use, including a “game” that guides youth through conversations about substance use. For these and other resources, please visit the Partnership’s website here: http://bit.ly/bUMink.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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A Few Good Blogs, Part Two

While I will be returning to my regularly scheduled blogging next week, I wanted to share a few blogs that I’ve recently been keeping up with. There is so much information out there on youth services, and it seems to be useful to create a short list of the blogs that are worth reading.

The After-School Corporation
http://tascorp.org/content/blog
TASC blogs and tweets about all things after-school, and provides a great resource to keep up with out-of-school time news.

CampLeadership.org
http://campleadership.org/CL/Home/Home.html
OK, so it’s not exactly a blog. But, this website has loads of helpful advice for summer program leaders that can be found in documents, videos, and podcasts for download. This is a brand new site, but is already loaded with some great information.

EdWeek’s Beyond Schools
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/beyond_schools/
This new blog discusses news and events from across the country regarding out-of-school time learning and services. Writer Mary-Ellen Phelps Deily has done an excellent job capturing the news needs of the national out-of-school field. While you’re there, check out EdWeek’s other blogs – they’re quite interesting!

NYNP’s (very own!) Matthea Marquart
http://bit.ly/cYiY4S
Matthea is a leader in the youth services professional development community, and always has brilliant advice for making good programs great. Be sure to drop by and see what she has to say this week!

YoungerWorld.org
http://commonaction.blogspot.com/
Writer Adam Fletcher writes about youth engagement, true youth voice, and how adultism impacts young people. He provides great food for thought for youth service providers.
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avatar Matthea Marquart
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Thank you, Jennifer!
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Cultural Competence and Youth Services

We hear the phrase “cultural competence” kicked around a lot, but what does it truly mean to use cultural competence as a framework for youth services? By definition, cultural competence refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures; this includes a) awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, b) awareness of one’s attitude toward cultural differences, c) knowledge of different cultural practices and world views, and d) cross-cultural skills (thanks, Wikipedia!). Cultural competence does not come naturally to everyone; in fact, it may be something that you have to intentionally build to become a better youth worker. We need not be experts in every language, heritage, and tradition, but by operating with cultural competence we allow young people to feel comfortable, accepted, and appreciated in our programs.

Here are a few examples of cultural influence that we should keep in mind when working with youth:

Food: Everyone can relate to food, but we don’t always make the same food choices. Not only will children have tastes for certain kinds of food, but they may also be used to eating only fresh food or only (unfortunately) junk food. It’s our job to share what we know about healthy eating, accessing food, and nutrition without placing judgment on the food choices kids make, knowing that those choices were likely influenced by their culture.

Dress: Another obvious one, perhaps, but this is an important reminder to think about cultural competence when it comes to clothes and style. For example, head coverings are central to many cultures’ customs, yet some countries are trying to ban the use of head coverings in schools and other settings. Because of this, some young people may be more sensitive to their right to wear their traditional garb. I would even argue that baggy, saggy pants are a part of some kids’ cultures, and it’s important to be sensitive to that if you choose to ask them to get their “pants off the ground.”

Demeanor: Culture has a large affect on whether a young person is loud or quiet, outgoing or introverted. In some households, children are expected to be seen and not heard – yet, I imagine, we would encourage them to actively engage in our activities and services. In some households, yelling is absolutely normal, though it may not be tolerated in a program setting. When working with youth, it’s important to be up-front with the rules, norms, and expectations so that they know that they are in a safe space where they can speak openly, or, on the flip side, that it is not a place where yelling is accepted. By being up-front, kids are less likely to take feedback and criticism as a personal attack on their cultural norms.

Final Thought: It’s OK not to be an expert on all things related to the world. However, by having an open mind and knowing your limitations, kids will know that you’re a safe person to interact with. When all else fails, ask questions! Kids are experts in their cultural perspective and experience, and I bet most would be happy to tell you more about themselves.
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avatar Mark Kleiman
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Recently I was introduced to the notion of cultural humility. Humility is an idea I have integrated into the posture of all the staff in my agency. I believe it is a preerequiste to all 'helping', a recognition of the need to be humble in the face of another's life and experiences. Given the importance of culture to our personal identities it is equally critical that we have humility when viewing and responding to the culture of others.

So many of our clients are vulnerable and weakened by circumstances. Often their culture is one of the few stable parts of their lives; a rudder for ritual and comfort. Sensitivity to the subtle, nuanced aspects of culture requires a level of humility that avoids any responses we may naturally have based upon our own cultures and their primacy within our lives.

Humility creates safety and facilitates communication, it better enables us to empower our clients to find the answers to their issues. It is also healthy for ourselves to recognize our limitations.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Thank you, Mark. This is very insightful and provides great food for thought!
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Attention Job Seekers!

We all know the realities of the economy and the toll its taken on businesses, non-profit organizations, and schools. At the same time, youth work never ends – and engaged, caring adults are always needed in this field. If you are a youth worker seeking employment, or if you’re considering a career change and want to learn more, check out the resources below for finding a job in the youth services field. If you’re aware of resources not listed here, please consider adding them in a comment below!

General Information:

Exploring a Career in Youth Development
http://www.careerswithyout h.org/
Though still under construction, this website includes valuable information for those thinking about transitioning into the youth services field. I found the job profiles in the Career Center for Youth Development section particularly interesting.

General searches for open position:
Youth Today
http://bit.ly/a4pYki
Youth Today provides national listing of available positions.

Idealist
http://idealist.org/
Idealist is the go-to resource for non-profit professionals across sectors.

Partnership for After School Education (PASE)
http://bit.ly/9weUYk
PASE offers a job bulletin for afterschool programs seeking employees in the New York City area.

New York Non-Profit Press (NYNP)
http://www.nynp.biz/Nonprofit%20Jobs.htm
Last, but certainly not least, you can find tons of jobs in a range of social sector fields posted right here on NYNP’s site.

Agency-specific searches:

YMCAs: http://www.ymca.net/careers/
Boys and Girls Clubs: http://www.bgca.org/careers/
Jewish Community Centers: http://www.jccworks.com/
United Neighborhood Houses of NY: http://www.unhny.org/jobbank/
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Resources for Finding Promising Practices in Youth Work

Many thanks to COA and TASC for sharing their promising practices. COA’s example, nationwide standards and program accreditation, is a big-picture benchmark for programs to assess how they are doing. TASC’s example, offering science activities in afterschool programs, is a specific practice that is very close to the point of service. I hope we can continue to think about promising practices in both large scale and program-level ways.

I was surprised to see that there weren’t more stories to share; I’d like to think that you’re out there reading these articles (Are you there readers? It’s me, Jen!), and that it might have been difficult to think of examples of how you have created your own promising practices. It’s not always easy to take a step back from the day-to-day grind of your work to think about your successes, but it’s important that you do. Not only should you be recognized for your good work in supporting youth, but sharing these successes will make our field a whole lot stronger!

Out of curiosity, I did a little digging on line to see what resources are available to us in promising practices in working with youth. Take a look – and let us know if anything strikes you as interesting or helpful!

“Best Practices”: National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth
http://bit.ly/aJon7z
This site links to tons of informational pages about program models, staffing strategies, and youth engagement.

“Developmental Assets”: Search Institute
http://bit.ly/3jpT9z
This example is slightly different than the others, as the Developmental Assets are a framework, not a strategy. However, research has shown that the more assets a young person has (external things like family support and constructive activities to participate in, as well as internal items like school engagement and honesty), the more likely they are to succeed. So, for youth workers this list translates into a number of activities and supports that can be offered that should have an impact on youth.

“Linking Research to Practice in Youth Development - What Works and How Do We Know?”: Monroe County Youth Bureau
http://bit.ly/bw7T8L
If you scroll down this page, you’ll find a link to download this document. It seems to be a diamond in the rough – a one-stop resource for promising practices in youth development! This document also contains links to other information that might be quite useful.

“Best Practices for Youth Friendly Clinical Services”: Advocates for Youth
http://bit.ly/b09JpP
This site links to a study that provides research-based information on youth friendly clinical services, specifically for professionals who provide health care for youth.

“Promising Practices Database”: AED Center for Youth Development
http://bit.ly/dh3iCW
This site contains a database of promising practices written by out-of-school time programs, for out-of-school time programs.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Reminder: Request for Promising Practices in Youth Services!

Please consider sharing your program’s success stories in this community forum. During these tough financial times, it is critical that we learn from each other to maximize outcomes for young people! Please share your innovative models and creative ideas that have helped support the academic, social, emotional, and/or physical development of children and youth.

If you would like to share your story, please follow one or both of these steps:

1. Submit your story by clicking “Post Reply” below. You will receive a message after you submit (click “OK”), and you will be asked to verify your comment via email. Please keep your story to 150-250 words or so, and provide a link to your website for more information.

2. For all the Twitterers out there, you can also tweet your story; please use @JenSiaca in your tweet so I can find it and highlight your story here. Please also tweet about this blog post so others know about this information-sha ring opportunity for stakeholders in the youth services community.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Request for Promising Practices in Youth Services!

As much as I enjoy writing about tips and tools for youth service organizations, I know that there is a wealth of knowledge among this blog’s readers. I would like to invite you to share the innovative models and creative ideas that have helped support the academic, social, emotional, and/or physical development of children and youth. Particular during tough fiscal times, it’s critical for us to share information that can be helpful to our colleagues and maximize our efforts. Please think carefully and be sure to submit stories that will help others to learn something practical, usable, and (ideally) replicable.

If you would like to share your story, please follow one or both of these steps:

1. Submit your story by clicking “Post Reply” below. You will receive a message after you submit (click “OK”), and you will be asked to verify your comment via email. Please keep your story to 150-250 words or so, and provide a link to your website for more information.

2. For all the Twitterers out there, you can also tweet your story; use @JenSiaca in your tweet so I can find it and highlight your story here. Please also tweet about this blog post so others know about this information-sha ring opportunity for stakeholders in the youth services community.
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avatar Michael Schmidt
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The Council on Accreditation (COA) works with human service organizations across the country to promote the use of best and effective practices in the delivery of social services. COA posts (free of charge) their standards on www.coastandards.org and is a great reference for service providers. Accreditation is a means to help an organization strengthen its practice delivery and to demonstrate to stakeholders, including funders and service recipients, that the services that are being offered are of the highest quality.
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avatar Jim Murphy
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COA's after school recognition provides an opportunity for a program to engage in a self evaluation process against nationally developed and recognized standards. The results of this self evaluation assists staff in their ongoing program improvement and prepares them for an independent site visit review and validation of the quality of their services and care provided to children and youth by specially trained professional Endorsers. COA offers a host of free resources including trainings and tools/forms for programs, all of which are available online at www.COAafterschool.org.
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avatar Jess Tonn
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Expanding kids’ science, technology, engineering and math opportunities is a national imperative and after-school programs, with their informal atmosphere and looser time constraints, are the perfect venue for science discovery.

At TASC, we’ve found that programs don’t need science or math experts to lead activities with kids. Well-trained after-school educators are in some ways better prepared to model the inquiry process, given that they discover the answers to science inquiries alongside their students. See the difference training can make in this video: http://bit.ly/aV2QoH

Nor do programs need expensive equipment and supplies. One of the curricula we use, "After-School Science Plus" (http://bit.ly/cLttcO), shows educators in after-school programs how to use inexpensive or household objects to lead science activities. Cornstarch and food coloring can teach kids about inquiry, observation, and states of matter: http://bit.ly/cjmYik
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Unique Resources Underutilized by Youth Workers

In the world of Google, there is a lot of information available to youth workers. Too much information, probably. The resources listed below are not new, but they might be new to you. I hope you find them useful.

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/subject.html
This U.S. government website is fun to visit and links to a wealth of resources for youth to use and explore. Topics include career readiness, education, technology, community service and more – this is a must see!

National Education Association, Tools and Ideas
http://www.nea.org/home/ToolsAndIdeas.html
The national teachers union website may be an unlikely site for youth development workers to visit. The Tools and Ideas page has great ideas, lesson plans, tips, and links that can help both teachers and youth workers in a variety of settings.

NYS CareerZone
http://www.nycareerzone.org/
This interactive website allows the user to view careers sorted by their interest area, and create an education and training plan based on their goals. This is an excellent tool to use with older youth for college and career readiness activities.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, MyPyramid
http://www.mypyramid.gov/kids/
An excellent source of information related to health and nutrition, MyPyramid includes games and interactive tools for youth and staff to use.

American Camp Association (ACA), Knowledge Center
http://www.acacamps.org/knowledge/
ACA has nearly 100 years in providing youth development services in camping settings. The ACA Knowledge Center has resources on behavior management, human resources, risk management, and numerous other topics. There are many resources listed here that can be useful to any youth services provider, especially, of course, those who provide summer programming.

New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, Park Locator
http://nysparks.state.ny.us/regions/default.aspx
This website is extremely user-friendly and helps find specific parks and amenities. This is the perfect tool for planning an outdoor field trip, a series of environmental education activities, or to help youth locate resources in their own neighborhoods.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Keeping Schools and Communities Safe and Drug Free

Last week, New York State announced that Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities federal funding has been eliminated for the coming year. In the DOE’s budget summary, they’ve noted the following reason for discontinuing the funds: “This State formula grant program… has not demonstrated effectiveness, and grant funds are spread too thinly to support quality interventions. The Administration believes better results may be obtained by redirecting a portion of this funding to Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities National Activities...” Eliminating programs that failed to prove to be effective was a campaign promise for President Obama; this is generally a good fiscal management strategy. On a separate note, however, there are real struggles in our communities and these funds were meaningful to the districts receiving them.

Take Long Island as an example of the consequences of not having these funds, where there is a widespread heroine epidemic. A January 11th Newsday article noted that from 2005 to 2008, Nassau County saw a 91% spike in arrests on heroin-related charges, while Suffolk had a 126% surge. As reported by CBS News, the heroine available is cheap and extremely strong; use one time can lead straight to physical addiction. This means young people who are simply “experimenting” can become drug addicts. They can be anyone: star athletes, straight A students – kids who have never showed any social or emotional warning signs of being at risk for drug abuse. Local school districts have spoken out about the consequences of not having Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities funding – they’re facing cuts to prevention programs that limit destructive behaviors during a time when prevention funding is most needed.

Fortunately, federal funding does not dictate what teachers, parents, and community leaders can offer to youth. This is an opportunity to re-evaluate prevention programs and strengthen efforts to support youth in making healthy decisions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ research shows that the greater the number of school-, community-, and faith- based activities that youth are involved with, the lower the rate of past year use of cigarettes, alcohol, and/or illicit drugs. Below are a number of resources for schools and community-based organizations that are faced with rethinking their substance abuse prevention strategies:

Elements of Effective Substance Abuse Education Programs, National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center
http://bit.ly/6SAw27

Examples of Research-Based Drug Abuse Prevention Programs, National Institute on Drug Abuse
http://bit.ly/4xvyk6

Resources on Underage Drinking, NYS Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
http://bit.ly/89Bs7k

Parents. The Anti-Drug, The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign
http://www.theantidrug.com/

Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)
http://www.sadd.org/


To read the Newsday article referenced above, see: http://bit.ly/5m7z8G
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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23 Approaches to College and Career Readiness

While a variety of programs and models are employed in the youth services world (substance abuse prevention, afterschool programming, mentoring, etc.), all would agree that the ultimate goal is to support youth as they become (hopefully) happy, productive, self-sufficient adults. In October, the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) released a useful publication on 23 programs’ strategies, successes, and challenges in supporting youth as they move toward or through life beyond high school. AYPF has defined “readiness” as the ability to “successfully complete credit-bearing college coursework or industry certification without remediation, having the academic skills and self-motivation necessary to persist and progress in postsecondary education, and having identified career goals… Readiness also requires the developmental maturity to thrive in the increasingly independent worlds of postsecondary education and careers, the cultural knowledge to understand the expectations of the college environment and labor market, and the employer-desire d skills to succeed in an innovation-base d economy.”

Reading Success at Every Step: How 23 Programs Support Youth on the Path to College and Beyond will help inspire youth service providers to think strategically about how they support youth in their programs, whether their goals are related to college or careers. In AYPF’s words, “These programs represent a wide range of interventions, including school-wide reform initiatives, community-based afterschool services, work-based learning opportunities, and college access programs.” The report both features these programs and provides a breakdown of the effective elements of the various models described, including a logic model that illustrates the programs. This information is intended to be useful to both practitioners and policymakers.

AYPF outlines that youth need a “Foundation for Learning and Growth” that includes knowledge, skills, and abilities (e.g. academic content, problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, college and career knowledge, etc.). “Personal resources” (e.g. motivation, self-efficacy, and financial support for education) are also critical. AYPF suggests that if youth have this foundation, they will have “a greater likelihood of achieving positive academic, professional, and personal outcomes across the short-term, intermediate, and long-term future”. This foundation is developed through a variety of programs and agencies; including families, schools, health professionals, social service providers, community-based organizations, private providers of academic support, employers, and institutions of higher education.

To learn more, please visit AYPF’s website: http://bit.ly/1gBdxc.

For more on college and career readiness, see the Forum for Youth Investment’s website on their Ready by 21 initiative: http://forumfyi.org/readyby21.
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avatar Sara Harmon
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Jennifer,

As follow-up to your College and Career readiness posts, check out this new report on New York's GED program at: http://www.scaany.org/documents/ged_report_jan2010.pdf
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Act for Youth: A New York Resource for Youth Development

It’s no secret that there is a lot of youth development information available online, but did you know that New York State has its own one-stop-shop for youth development resources? Act for Youth is a collaborative led by the Cornell University Family Life Development Center, Cornell University Cooperative Extension of NYC, NYS Center for School Safety, and University of Rochester Medical Center. According to their website, “ACT for Youth connects positive youth development resources and research to practice in New York State and beyond. The ACT for Youth Center of Excellence provides: technical support, training, and evaluation for youth-serving programs funded by the NYS Department of Health; youth development and adolescent sexual health resources housed on the ACT for Youth website; [and] a home base for the ACT Youth Network, which connects young community activists across New York State.”

Though changes in funding have led the group to alter its work in the last few months, there are a number of important resources on their website that are not to be missed:

Online Training
These are terrific web-based videos that provide information on critical topics in youth development.: http://www.actforyouth.net/?training

Sustainability
A topic on everyone’s mind these days!: www.actforyouth.net/?sustainability

Engaging
Tips on why and how to engage community stakeholders in youth development: www.actforyouth.net/?engaging

Collaborations for Community Change

Learn great ideas that were implemented in cities and counties across NYS: www.actforyouth.net/?actCommunities
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Education News Round-Up

There has been a lot of buzz in the news lately about education reform and new initiatives. With the U.S. Department of Education getting ready to dish out millions of dollars for school reform, non-profit organizations employing new strategies to lower high school dropout rates, and city, state, and national changes in education policy, there’s a lot of information to keep up with! Here is a round up of recent articles that are worth a read.

U.S. Department of Education and Stimulus Spending:
Stimulus Rules on 'Turnarounds' Shift, Lesli A. Maxwell, EdWeek
“The final rules for the billion Race to the Top competition give states and districts more leeway in how they intervene in chronically underperforming schools, a subtle but important change that raises new questions about whether the push to turn around struggling campuses will succeed in rehabilitating large numbers of schools.”

http://bit.ly/6X1ghl

Arne joins NY charter-cap flap, Jennifer Fermino and David Seifman, NY Post
November 11, 2009

“Education Secretary Arne Duncan yesterday questioned the wisdom of a New York law that limits the number of charter schools -- and he warned that federal education aid will be doled out only to places prepared to ‘challenge the status quo.’”

http://bit.ly/4lyy6Q

Duncan Aims to Make Incentives Key Element of ESEA, Alyson Klein, EdWeek
November 30, 2009

“U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said Monday that he envisions a significant new emphasis on federal incentives for high-performing schools, districts, and states in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, expected to be taken up by Congress as early as next year. Mr. Duncan said the Department of Education is considering proposals that would offer increased autonomy, recognition, and resources for states that commit to adopting college- and career-readines s standards, and for schools and districts that make significant progress in student achievement.”

http://bit.ly/60twKK

Support for At-Risk Youth and Young Adults:
Agencies to Pilot Postsecondary Projects: Because a GED Just Isn’t Good Enough Anymore, Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Youth Today
November 25, 2009

“A GED – or general education diploma – once was a “good enough diploma,” as comedian Chris Rock has called it. But that description is increasingly becoming a harmful falsity for youths and those charged with preparing youths for jobs in the modern economy… Now more and more research shows that to secure a decent-paying job, it’s becoming increasingly incumbent for youths to have some type of post-secondary education or training. That’s the purpose behind the Postsecondary Success Initiative (PSI), a three-year pilot meant to enable community-based organizations to put low-income youth and young adults on the path to a postsecondary credential or certificate, and ultimately living wage jobs.”

http://bit.ly/8FbVez

Dropout Costs Priced for 50 Major U.S. Cities: "The Economic Benefits of Reducing High School Dropout Rates in America’s Fifty Largest Cities", Report Round Up, EdWeek
November 25, 2009

“If half the students who dropped out of the class of 2008 had graduated, they would have generated .1 billion more in wages and 6 million in state and local taxes nationally in one average year of their working lives, according to a new analysis.

The study, issued this month by the Washington-base d Alliance for Excellent Education, calculates what the dropout problem costs the country and each of the 50 largest metropolitan areas.”

http://bit.ly/7N1CVK

Education in NYC:

Mayor Bloomberg pushes plan to ax bad teachers in move that stuns union
Richard Sisk and Meredith Kolodner, NY Daily News
November 26th 2009

“Mayor Bloomberg vowed Wednesday the city will use students' test scores to decide if their teachers should get tenure - defying the Legislature and angering the union. Bloomberg made the aggressive move in a speech in Washington as contract talks with the teachers union have stalled - and hundreds of millions of federal dollars hang in the balance.”

http://bit.ly/6XpF6A

City’s Schools Share Their Space, and Bitterness
Jennifer Medina, NY Times
November 29, 2009

“Suzanne Tecza had spent a year redesigning the library at Middle School 126 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, including colorful new furniture and elaborate murals of leafy trees. So when her principal decided this year to give the space to the charter high schools that share the building, Ms. Tecza was furious.”
http://bit.ly/7L09Vw

Budget cuts cause classroom sizes to grow, kindergartners suffer the most
Meredith Kolodner, NY Daily News
November 30, 2009

“Class sizes in city schools jumped by the most in more than a decade this year - and youngest children are getting hit hardest.”
http://bit.ly/8WoWxR

Science and Technology:
Books' Digital Features Enhance Reading Experience
Katie Ash and Kathleen Kennedy Manzo, EdWeek Digital Directions
November 23, 2009
“The International Reading Association convened a small group of educators in Washington this month to discuss how carefully designed digital features can engage students in the content of the books they are reading and motivate them to learn more.”
http://bit.ly/rueRdObama launches new STEM initiatives: President announces efforts to boost math, science education, Maya T. Prabhu, ESchoolNews

November 24, 2009
“President Barack Obama on Nov. 23 announced the launch of several nationwide programs to help motivate and inspire students to excel in science and math, including a grassroots effort called "National Lab Day" and a White House science fair. Leadership tomorrow is dependent on how America's students are educated today, Obama said in morning remarks.”
http://bit.ly/6tym61
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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An Unlikely Case for Early Childhood Supports

On November 5th, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and a group of former military officials came together to discuss a report released by Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit, bi-partisan organization of senior retired military leaders ensuring continued security and prosperity by calling for investments in the next generation of American children.

The report includes a startling fact: 75% of young Americans are ineligible to serve their country because they have either failed to graduate high school, engaged in criminal activity, or are physically or mentally unfit. Based on this statistic, Mission: Readiness estimates that in New York, over 1.7 million young adults cannot join the military. They noted that this estimate may be lower than the actual number, as New York has more young people who are overweight (33% in NY vs. 32% nationally) and more young people without “on-time high school degrees” (31% in NY vs. 26% nationally).

Previous to this report, it us unlikely that retired military leaders were considered to be core partners in the movement for early care and education programs and other supports for young children. Now, it seems to make sense. The group is pushing for Congress to pass the Early Learning Challenge Fund, which would provide millions of dollars to states for building stronger supports for young children. As reported in Youth Today, retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral James A. Barnett Jr. asserted that national security in the year 2030 is “absolutely dependent on what happens in Pre-K today.”

One might wonder if this message may make too strong of a connection between early care and military preparedness. What about other goals for children; what about success in school, college, career, and family life? In a press release, Mission: Readiness National Director Amy Dawson said, “The most important asset we have for our national defense is our men and women in uniform. To be successful in their careers, in or out of the military, young people need to get a strong start in life.” It seems Mission: Readiness recognizes the need for young children to be supported regardless of their intention to join the service or not. Regardless, they are providing a helpful effort to the early care community, which may result in improved outcomes for children.

Learn more at www.missionreadines s.com.
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Getting Involved With Service Learning

Service learning concepts and activities are being implemented across the country in record-breaking numbers. Service learning combines service objectives and learning objectives, along with the intent to show measurable change in both the recipient and the provider of the service (Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)).

It’s critical that service learning activities go beyond providing service (e.g. cleaning up a polluted stream), and truly incorporate teaching and learning (e.g. completing a science unit on the impact of pollution on the environment, cleaning a polluted stream, and analyzing and publishing young people’s findings about pollution in their community). According to Where's the Learning in Service-Learnin g? (Eyler & Giles, 1999), authentic service learning experiences are meaningful, involve cooperative experiences, address complex problems, and offer opportunities for creative problem-solving.

Although service learning is not a new concept, the recently-launch ed federal United We Serve initiative has encouraged more Americans to engage in community service. The momentum gained by talking about service learning in the public sphere has been critical to expanding use of this terrific learning and youth development strategy. So, what can we do to further the national movement in our communities?

If you work with youth…
If you work directly with youth in a classroom or out-of-school setting, you have a great opportunity to introduce or expand service learning activities. If you remain unconvinced, consider this: youth who participate in community-based service learning show an increased sense of self-efficacy, higher academic achievement, and enhanced attitudes about civic engagement (CNCS). For lessons and project plans, check out Service Learning Ideas and Curricular Examples (SLICE): http://www.servicelearning.org/slice.

If you work in another setting (higher education, social service agency, etc.)
If you don’t work directly with youth, you can still get involved! Building partnerships with youth-serving organizations and schools around service learning can provide tremendous benefits for kids, and even for you! Real-world settings provide a challenging and engaging backdrop for service learning activities. Allowing youth to learn and serve alongside lawyers, professors, architects, social workers, doctors, and others adds richness to their experience (and perhaps some mentoring, too). Youth are also more likely to be engaged with an organization when they are meaningful participants and can contribute (CNCS), so service learning opportunities may also serve as a recruitment tool for universities and social service agencies or even a marketing tool for business partners.

For additional resources, see:
Corporation for National and Community Service Resource page
http://www.servicelearning.org

National Service Learning Partnership
http://www.service-learnin gpartnership.org

State Education Agency K-12 Service Learning Network
http://www.seanetonline.org

Western New York Service Learning Coalition
http://www.servicelearning.org/etrcncs-link/?popup_id=1693
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Opportunities to Learn More About Service Learning!
As part of the National Learn & Serve Challenge, the National Service-Learnin g Partnership and the National Youth Leadership Council invite you to participate in the following webinars:

Nov. 12th at 12pm, EST: The Service-Learnin g Cycle
Dec. 3rd at 12pm, EST: Self-Assessment and the GSN Resources

Join by logging onto www.readytalk.com and typing 8991249 as the access code under Join a Meeting. You will be asked to provide your name and e-mail address to register. The audio portion is done through a conference call line; join the audio by dialing 866-740-1260 and using the same participant passcode: 8991249.
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Tradition as a Tool in Strengthening Youth Programs

Tradition: A Case Study

On September 26th, the Nassau County 4-H Camp held its 85th Anniversary Reunion. Over two hundred people traveled to Riverhead, NY from places as far away as Florida and California. They were former campers and staff spanning at least 6 decades of camping experiences. They shared laughter and memories, and reminisced about things that other people just don’t understand. They sang complicated songs with lyrics that are forever ingrained in their minds. They slept in cabins and awoke to a reveille bugle; no 5-star accommodations, but no one would ask for it to be any other way.

On a more relevant note to you, these two hundred people each paid for their stay, bought items at Canteen (the camp store), and left behind extra cash in exchange for fresh vegetables from the camp’s farm. They brought along future campers to gauge their interest in attending someday. They used social networks to advertise the event and tell others about the importance of 4-H youth development programming in children’s lives.

Why? Because tradition has created a nearly inescapable link from each of these people back to the camp. I would bet that without the traditions that made it a very special place to those who attended (say, if the camp offered art and soccer and cooking alone), these adults wouldn’t feel quite so attached. Instead, the camp has built upon 85 years of songs, stories, quirky rituals, and generations of relationships that assure that camp alumni will continue to return. As any Nassau County 4-H Camp alumnus will tell you, “all roads lead back to camp”.

What does tradition in a youth program look like?
The majority of children and youth enjoy and seek belonging; whether it’s a feeling of having a home away from home, an adult role model, or a peer group where they’re always accepted. This is why gangs are often successful in luring young people to join their ranks: they offer a false sense of family and friendship that is hard to reject by a young adult who simply wants to belong. Fortunately, youth-serving organizations can use the same premise and strategies to offer children and youth a safe haven to play, learn, socialize, seek medical help, and otherwise be supported. By incorporating tradition and rituals, young people will inevitably feel a stronger bond with the program or agency. These traditions may be found in activities, ceremonies, clothing, slogans, or other things that create a bond among youth and with your agency. Often times, traditions are what stick with youth as they grow into adults.

How does tradition serve as a management tool?

To reiterate, tradition is what keeps ‘em coming back for more. Creating tradition is a strategy that can help organizations fulfill their missions in a number of ways.

Recruitment and Retention: It’s easier to retain young people in programs when they’re fully engaged, and it’s easier to get them to bring their friends, too! At the Nassau County 4-H Camp, many campers will bring family members and peers when they return the following summer. Many note the unique traditions of the camp, such as the special bonfire and ceremony held each Friday night, as the reason why they return and recommend the camp to others.

Advocacy: Every organization needs a large pool of advocates, and who better than alumni? Former program participants (of all ages) can truly express how important the organization’s services are in the lives of youth. This is a critical marketing and fundraising tool. Back at the 4-H Camp, alumni came out in droves to show their support when the portion of the camp’s budget derived from public funds was in danger of being drastically cut. Countless letters, e-mails, phone calls, and visits to elected officials later (all done by camp alumni), the alumni were successfully able to make the case as to why their camp adds value among similar summer programs.

Fundraising: Recession and all, the 4-H Camp alumni donated money because the camp where they spent their summers continues to mean a great deal to them. They wanted to contribute to allow this generation of children and youth the opportunity to attend the camp; much of the money raised will be used for “camperships” that subsidize time at camp for underprivileged youth. No matter the age of the children you serve, they will remember you and your services if they remember your agencies’ unique traditions.

Volunteer Base: Not all of the children in a program will be able to provide financial support, but they will almost certainly be able to roll up their sleeves and help. Engaged alumni can give back to an organization with office help, manual labor, writing and editing, etc.… if they feel an ongoing stake in the services being provided.

Final thought: Client engagement isn’t a luxury; it should be a critical part of any youth-serving organization’s strategic plan. Young people will be better served and the organization will enjoy countless short- and long-term payoffs. With tradition comes a deep engagement that does not go away with age, time, or distance.
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Hard Times for Human Services
The Human Services Council (HSC) and the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College held a poignant forum on their recent report entitled, “The Helpers Need Help: New York City’s Nonprofit Human Service Organizations Persevering In Uncertain Times” on Wednesday, September 9th. The survey respondents included 244 Executive Directors from the NYC area. Here are the startling facts from the report:

*More than 60% of organizations have seen decreases in public funding, with more than 50% experiencing major cuts to existing contracts with city, state, and federal government.
*80% of organizations said they are experiencing major reductions in private funding, with more than half seeing reductions of more than 20%.
*73% of the organizations have no financial reserves to draw from until the economy picks back up.

In a press release, Michael Stoller, HSC Executive Director stated, “On a broad level, this is the worst scenario for human services organizations… There’s less government money because there are less taxes and there’s less foundation and personal giving because of the uncertainty in the market.”

Families are struggling, and we try and hope to support more youth with more services. But, we face a paradoxical phenomenon in a field where demand rises and supply is forcefully whittled down due to funds drying up and agencies laying off staff. Youth continue to need counseling, care during the after school hours, employment opportunities, and mentoring – perhaps now more than ever. It’s imperative for youth-serving agencies to weather the storm for our youth. Agencies have to think creatively, cut back where possible, and use data to inform potential donors and funders of how critical their services are.

To read the full report, see: www.humanservicesco uncil.org or http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/spa/researchcenters/nonprofitstrate gy/reports.php.
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Supporting Youth Literacy

As the new school year approaches, you may be gearing up to launch a new set of afterschool activities, classroom lessons, or tutoring techniques. We all know how critical literacy is to youth success, and the skills children need to navigate their way through standardized tests to high school graduation and beyond. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently sat down with Scholastic News to discuss education broadly, and specifically talked about the books he read during his childhood and the books he reads with his children now. This is a great activity to replicate in your own program or classroom (or home!): try to use your own experience to get youth excited about reading. In fact, you might let them interview you or other adults to discuss how fun reading can be.

To view the clip of Secretary Duncan’s interview, see: http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=3752449 (the talk about reading starts around 4 minutes, 15 seconds into the clip).

Here are some other fun reading activities:

Increase children’s vocabulary with these resources, ideas, and supports for educators from Scholastic.
http://content.scholastic.com/browse/article.jsp?id=4503

The National Institute for Literacy offers educators help in strategically choosing teaching approaches to foster literacy among youth.
http://www.nifl.gov/childhood/childteach.html

Read news from around the world! At the Newseum (a Washington D.C.-based museum) website, older youth can read the front page of newspapers from across the country, and the world!
http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpage s/flash/default.asp

Reading Rainbow may be going off the air, but their website offers great tools and games for promoting literacy among younger children.
http://pbskids.org/readingrainbow/games/index.html
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Back to School

It’s hard to believe, but the summer has almost come to an end; for NYC public school students, classes begin on September 9th. The mark the “occasion,” the NYC DOE hosted the Second Annual Back to School Kickoff on Saturday, August 22nd in Central Park. The event offered games, arts and crafts, entertainment, and an appearance by Chancellor Klein. NYC DOE representatives were there to answer kids’ and parents’ questions.

This event and other preparation are critical to student success throughout the year. While many students are excited to return to the classroom and to see there friends, many lack motivation to go back to studying and taking tests, and some are facing fears of transitioning into a new school or not having friends. As a youth worker, teacher, or parent/guardian, you can do a great deal to frame the “back to school” discussion in a positive light.

NYC DOE's Chief Family Engagement Officer, Martine Guerrier, appeared on Fox 5's "Good Day New York" on August 21st. She offered these tips to parents for preparing their children for going back to school, which I encourage you to pass along to the families that you work with!
-Have a conversation for your kids
-Get to know your parent coordinator
-Keep a running dialogue with teachers
-Read a new book with your child between now and the start of school
-Make a trip to school before the first day

(View the video of Ms. Guerrier on Fox 5 here: http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/education/090821_back_to_school_advice)

For youth workers with children in their care over the summer, I would add the following recommendations:
-Read one or more of these “back to school”-themed books with the children you work with: http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/EnglishLanguage Arts/ParentResources/Back+to+School+Books+for+Families.htm
-Help students transitioning from one school to another by introducing them to a buddy or big sibling from their new school; this is especially easy in programs that serve children across age ranges.
-Sometimes kids get the blues when leaving their favorite summer program, which can affect their outlook on returning to school. Encourage them to sign up for a similar afterschool program, or remind them to look forward to next summer’s program – which comes after a successful school year.
-Attitude is everything. The kids that you work with look up to you, and they’ll take cues from your behavior that will shape their own outlook. Remain positive about school and education, and they’ll be excited about it too!
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Web Resources for Educators and Youth Workers

Although surfing the internet can be fun for looking up facts and catching up with friends, the world wide web can also be overwhelming when looking for specific information. There are tons of resources for educators and youth workers online, from free lesson plans to ways to find donations. See below for a few useful websites.

American Camping Association
http://www.acacamps.org/knowledge/
This site offers articles and information to camp managers in 14 areas: Business & Finance, Participant Development & Behaviors, Food Services, Program Design & Activities, Health & Wellness, Risk Management, Human Resources, Site & Facilities, Leadership, Strategic Planning, Marketing, Target Population & Diversity, Mission & Outcomes, and Transportation.

DonorsChoose.org
http://www.donorschoose.org
DonorsChoose.org is an online warehouse of projects waited to be funded, posted directly by classroom teachers and other educators. According to their website, all you have to do is sign up and post your project… the rest is done by philanthropists who wish to support your work.

Free Tools for Teachers
http://www.suelebeau.com/freetools.htm
The resources on this site were compiled by a teacher, and include dozens of free worksheet templates and download-able documents ready for use.

National Center for Afterschool Quality
http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/resources/curriculum.html
This site has multiple curriculum databases for out-of-school time staff to search for evidence-based activities in many areas, including math and literacy.

NYLearns.org
http://www.nylearns.org/public_web/content/search/
This site has a powerful search tool and allows teachers to find resources, such as lesson plans, learning experience/units, and E-books, by teaching subject and grade.

The Search Institute
http://www.search-institut e.org/content/youth-serving-o rganizations
The Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets provide a popular framework for supporting healthy youth development. This site offers guidance to youth-focused organizations on incorporating the assets framework into their activities and practices.

4-H Directory
http://www.4-hdirectory.org
The 4-H Directory allows you to find activity curricula (some for free, some for a small fee) for projects ranging from gardening to nutrition to robotics.
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Summertime: It's Not Just a Vacation

As noted in my last post, July 9th was Summer Learning Day. According to the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University, Summer Learning Day was celebrated across the country with over 500 events – this is double the number of events from last year! It’s clear that youth, teachers, families, community-based organizations, camps, and schools are increasingly recognizing the tremendous value of summer learning programs. Here’s why:

- All young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer. Research spanning 100 years shows that students typically score lower on standardized tests at the end of summer vacation than they do on the same tests at the beginning of the summer (White, 1906; Heyns, 1978; Entwisle & Alexander 1992; Cooper, 1996; Downey et al, 2004).

- Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains (Cooper, 1996).

- More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college (Alexander et al, 2007).

- Children lose more than academic knowledge over the summer. Most children—particularly children at high risk of obesity—gain weight more rapidly when they are out of school during summer break (Von Hippel et al, 2007).

- Parents consistently cite summer as the most difficult time to ensure that their children have productive things to do (Duffett et al, 2004).
(Research collected by the National Center for Summer Learning, www.summerlearning.org)

President Obama issued a proclamation in honor of Summer Learning Day. The White House statement included the following poignant remarks:
“Like an athlete out of practice, a child who takes long breaks from learning can face academic setbacks. This problem is especially prominent during the summer, when students may lose more than two months of progress… High-quality summer learning programs help children catch up, keep up, and work ahead… Through the arts, sports, and other extracurricular activities, summer learning opportunities also promote innovation and physical fitness. These health benefits are especially important because childhood obesity is at an all-time high and children typically gain weight two to three times faster during the summer.”

The President’s statement also noted the value of “sustained public service,” and encouraged families and youth to seek local volunteer opportunities at Serve.gov. Summer and year-round service opportunities can also be found at VolunteerMatch.org, ServiceLearning.org, NewYorkCares.org, and NewYorkersVolun teer.org.

There are many examples of exciting events that took place locally. As reported by the Brooklyn Eagle on July 15th, New York City Councilmember Letitia James (Brooklyn) visited the BELL summer program at P.S. 22 to celebrate summer learning with the program staff and participants. BELL’s “scholars” (as their participants are called) gain an average of two to three months of skills — a net difference of as much as six months over some of their peers who fall victim to the summer slide. Councilmember James spoke directly to the 200 or so scholars, and said, “All of you have the potential for greatness. The sky is the limit—whatever you want to be. You could be president, city counselor, or executive director of a program. All of you, all of you can do it.”

The evidence is clear: summer enrichment boosts young people’s academic, social, emotional, and physical development. Schools and community-based organizations should offer engaging programs to youth regardless of age, socioeconomic background, or academic level. Families should ensure that children have access to a program, or to a “homemade” summer learning experience: turn cooking dinner into a math or culture lesson, take children to the local library or park, and allow children to explore and grow. Summers should be a break from school, not a break from education.
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Happy Summer Learning Day! Today, we celebrate summer learning programs all over the country for their work in keeping youth safe and supporting their development during their break from school. Summer programs are critical to closing the achievement gap.

To learn more, see the National Center for Summer Learning website (www.summerlearning.org) or follow them on Twitter: @summerlearning.

P.S. Keep an eye out for a full post on the importance of summer learning in the next week or two!
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Innovative Fundraising Ideas and Tips for Youth Programs

While this blog typically focuses on youth supports and activities, lately it seems that many service providers are preoccupied with paying bills and cutting budgets. For some programs, it's difficult to focus on anything else! This week's article focuses on innovative fundraising ideas and tips for youth programs.

Be mindful and memorable.
Clearly describing your solution to a problem will get you much further than simply offering to treat the symptoms. Use a logic model to show a clear connection between your work and youth outcomes. Try to do all of this in a memorable way, perhaps using youth artwork in your proposal package or creating a visual proposal using different types of media (video, PowerPoint, etc.).

Turn small change into big impacts.
If you don't have an online donation option on your website (e.g. PayPal), you're missing out! Consider all the people you know who would be willing to donate or to support your work: family members, friends, fellow members of your house of worship, etc. Those small donations add up quickly, especially for organizations with small budgets. Consider printing the web address to your donations page on all marketing materials, and be creative - send out holiday cards and ask for donations in lieu of presents for you or as a donation in someone's honor as a gift to them. Put the link to your donations page in your e-mail signature, too!

Trade and barter.
Your organization may have more to offer than you think. Running youth job skills programs? Ask a local organization if they'll give your program goods or space in return for manpower. Offering child care? See if you can provide care for the children of local business' employees in exchange for cash or supplies.

Be cost-effective.
It is more compelling to give to an organization that is efficient than one that is wasteful. Think about all expenses that can be "seen" by a public audience, including travel practices, inventory and supplies, and external contracts with vendors.

Showcase your work.
You may not have the resources to host a big fundraiser event, but consider trading cocktails and door prizes for a casual showcase of your services. You might attract contributions by inviting potential donors to a sports tournament, talent show, job shadow day, or camping trip - these events will give them a better sense of your work and engage them with the youth you're serving.

Create synergy and be replicable.
Building relationships with like-minded organizations will help your donors recognize that you're sharing resources and that their investment is being maximized. By maintaining records and documenting progress, you might be able to assist other organizations to efficiently offer services like yours - another way in which donors' investments can be stretched to have maximum impact.

Know your stuff.
This seems obvious, but it takes time and patience to truly keep up with new research and emerging best practices. It also helps to have data about the target population in your community; consider conducting your own student survey or needs assessment among local families. Be sure that other members of your team (e.g. grant writer, financial officer, Executive Director, etc.) also have complete information about your program and target population, as they might contribute to proposals or be asked questions on site visits from potential funders.
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New Efforts to Prevent Bullying: A Concern for Doctors, Too

Although many social constructs and public policies have changed over time, certain issues faced by youth seem unaffected by increasing diversity, evolving technology, and cultural trends. Unfortunately, bullying is a problem that hasn’t been diminished with time. According to the National Youth Violence Prevention Center, “While both male and female youth say that others bully them by making fun of the way they look or talk, males are more likely to report being hit, slapped, or pushed. Female youth are more likely than males to report being the targets of rumors and sexual comments.” Approximately 30% of youth are bullied or bully others. Add unreported cyberbulling to the equation, which is much more difficult to measure, and you have a tremendous problem.

Though some young people are only affected mildly (and many adults consider bullying to be a coming of age ritual), others become severely depressed or, in the most egregious cases, take their own lives. Bullies often target youth dealing with other issues, such as being obesity or questioning their sexual orientation. On June 8, 2009, Ellen DeGeneres hosted Sirdeaner Walker, mother of 11-year-old Carl who was a target of bullies and, as a result, took his own life. Ellen stressed the importance of teaching children about compassion and kindness to avoid the tragic results of bullying. The Ellen DeGeneres show created a useful new website with resources on bullying (http://ellen.warnerbros.com/2009/06/do_you_know_a_child_who_is_bul.php).

Fortunately, positive steps are being taken to address this issue. As reported by the New York Times on June 9th, the American Academy of Pediatrics is publishing a new policy on pediatricians’ responsibility to prevent bullying and violence. The policy’s author, Dan Olweus from the University of Bergen, Norway, feels schools are responsible for implementing programs that “…work at the school level and the classroom level and at the individual level; they combine preventive programs and directly addressing children who are involved or identified as bullies or victims or both.” The article also recommends that facilities in which youth spend time be designed to avoid spaces in which bullying can occur. Hopefully, parents, youth, doctors, teachers, psychologists, and youth workers can pull together to minimize bullying and better support young people.

For more information, check out the websites below.

National Youth Violence Prevention Center
http://www.safeyouth.org/scripts/topics/bullying.asp

U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration
http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/bullying
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Youth, Technology, and a Digital Workforce

I recently had the pleasure of writing an article entitled, “A Whole New World (Wide Web): Using Web 2.0 in Education and Youth Development” that appears in the June edition of the NYNP newspaper (PDF available at www.nynp.biz). The article addresses the ways in which educators and youth developers can respond to our increasingly technology-cent ric society in schools and youth programs. Suggestions are provided for learning content as well as administration and management practices. We know that youth continue to need and benefit from having role models and strong relationships with caring adults, but we have to recognize that they are learning and living in a different world from the one the rest of us grew up in.

By chance, this article came out in the same week as President Obama’s announcement of a new cybersecurity initiative. In his remarks, President Obama stated, “We will begin a national campaign to promote cybersecurity awareness and digital literacy from our boardrooms to our classrooms, and to build a digital workforce for the 21st century… it's not enough for our children and students to master today's technologies -- social networking and e-mailing and texting and blogging -- we need them to pioneer the technologies that will allow us to work effectively through these new media and allow us to prosper in the future.” The only way for us to fulfill the call to develop a digital workforce is to embrace technology today and support young people as they learn how to adapt and innovate in today’s technology-base d world. I hope A Whole New World… can support educators and youth developers in making this transition.
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Just the Facts: H1N1 in Schools and Child Care Facilities

Everyone’s talking about it, but it can be tricky to find useful information on H1N1 (swine flu) and how to keep children and young adults safe. As of today, May 18th, 11 NYC schools have been closed to prevent this and other strains of the flu from spreading. Here are a few of the best resources you may need to ensure the young people you work with stay healthy.

Update on School (K – 12) and Child Care Programs: Interim CDC Guidance in Response to Human Infections with the Novel Influenza A (H1N1) Virus
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/K12_dismissal.htm
This document provides up-to-date interim guidance for schools and child care programs regarding the prevention of the spread of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus, including recommendations about when to use school and program closure as a preventative measure.

Frequently Asked Questions: H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Information
American Academy of Pediatrics

http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/may09swinefluqanda.htm
This website provides a useful FAQ, and would make a great hand-out for parents and families!

Child Care and Preschool Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist
PandemicFlu.Gov

http://pandemicflu.gov/plan/school/preschool.html
According to PandemicFlu.Gov, “child care and preschool programs can help protect the health of their staff and the children and families they serve. Interruptions in child care services during an influenza (flu) pandemic may cause conflicts for working parents that could result in high absenteeism in workplaces. Some of that absenteeism could be expected to affect personnel and workplaces that are critical to the emergency response system. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer this checklist to help programs prepare for the effects of a flu pandemic.

NYC DOE Website and Twitter Updates
NYC Dept. of Education

http://schools.nyc.gov/Home/Spotlight/swine.htm
If you’re in NYC, you can always check the NYC Dept. of Education’s website for frequently updated guidance and news on school closures. You can also follow the DOE on Twitter for regular updates: @nycschools.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Is reaching 25% Enough?
Findings from the Gallup Student Poll


The recently released report on the Gallup Student Poll, written by Dr. Shane J. Lopez, shows that a mere 25% of responding students meet criteria in all three dimensions studied: hope, engagement, and well-being. These students have “abundant energy and ideas about the future and are enthusiastic about school and what it has to offer.” Their peers, however, are lost somewhere in the mix.

The poll surveyed over 70,000 students in grades 5-12 from 59 school districts in 18 states and D.C. Key findings include:

Hope (the ideas and energy we have for the future; hope drives attendance, credits earned, and GPA of high school students, and predicts GPA and retention in college)
Half of students are hopeful; these students possess numerous ideas and abundant energy for the future. The other half of students are stuck or discouraged, lacking the ideas and energy they need to navigate problems and reach goals…. While 95% of today’s students say they will graduate, fewer than 75% of students will receive a high school diploma.

Engagement (the involvement in and enthusiasm for school; distinguishes between high-performing and low-performing schools)
Half of students are engaged; they are highly involved with and enthusiastic about school. The other half of students are either going through the motions at school or actively undermining the teaching and learning process… Student engagement peaks during elementary school, decreases through middle school and 10th grade, and plateaus through the rest of high school — seemingly after some of the most actively disengaged students drop out of school.

Well-being (how we think about and experience our lives; tells us how our students are doing today and predicts their success in the future)
Nearly two-thirds of students are thriving; they think about their present and future life in positive terms, and they tend to be in good health and have strong social support. Just over one-third of students are struggling or suffering.

Now what?
Much of this survey’s findings confirm what we already know or sensed about today’s young people. Still, the information is startling enough that it should spur new discussions and actions as to how to better engage students and tend to their academic, social, emotional, and physical well-being. The Gallup report suggests using this meaningful data to reinvigorate efforts to prevent dropping out and disengagement. According to the report, “Involved youth, concerned parents, educators, after-school program staff, and business and community leaders are charged with the goals of doubling hope, building engaged schools, boosting well-being, and raising the graduation rate.”

Where can we start? If you read the report, you’ll see a list of statements and questions that students were asked to respond to. These questions include:
I know I will graduate from high school.
There is an adult in my life who cares about my future.
I feel safe in this school.
My teachers make me feel my schoolwork is important.
Were you treated with respect all day yesterday?
Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?

Bottom line: these items aren’t luxuries; they’re rights. Have any ideas as to how to support hopefulness, engagement, and well-being in youth? Please reply to this entry and share your thoughts!

Note: The poll will be administered again in the Fall; schools can sign up at www.gallupstudentpo ll.com. The full report can be accessed here: http://www.gallupstudentpo ll.com/gtmp/object_utils.display_object?id=922358&dummy=0.
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A Few Good Blogs… On Youth and Education!

The blogosphere can be a great resource for getting updates about state and national policy initiatives, professional development opportunities, and new research findings. There are dozens of blogs focused on education and youth development; in fact, there is an overwhelming amount of information, and the difficult part can be sorting through all of it. Here are a few good blogs on education and youth development that can help teachers, youth workers, school administrators, and non-profit managers. They include well-known sources of information, as well as a few blogs from individuals whose work is worthy of your time!

Teachers Teaching Teachers
http://teachersteachin gteachers.org/
This site is a portal for peer learning among teachers. In addition to the blog, you can access a weekly professional development webcast. As described by the authors, the intention of the site is to offer space for teachers to tell their stories and share information, ultimately to develop teacher knowledge and leadership.

Laura Walker, Teacher
http://mrslwalker.com/
Laura Walker is a teacher in the UK and uses her blog to share a wealth of teacher resources, with a focus on integrating technology in curricula and making learning more engaging and appealing to youth. Her blog and Twitter updates include professional and personal updates, but they’re worth sorting through to access her excellent posts on teaching.

The Core Knowledge Blog
http://www.coreknowledge.org/blog/
Per this blog, “core knowledge” is an idea “that for the sake of academic excellence, greater fairness, and higher literacy, elementary and middle schools need a solid, specific, shared core curriculum in order to help children establish strong foundations of knowledge, grade by grade.” This blog provides resources that further the pursuit of core knowledge, including informative and timely research updates and classroom ideas.

EduWonk
http://www.eduwonk.com/
Eduwonk is a blog written by Andrew Rotherham, Co-founder and Publisher of Education Sector, an independent think tank that “challenges conventional thinking in education policy… a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization committed to achieving measurable impact in education policy, both by improving existing reform initiatives and by developing new, innovative solutions to our nation's most pressing education problems.”

Schools Matter, Jim Horn, Ph.D.
http://schoolsmatter.blogspot.com/
This blog “explores issues in public education policy, and it advocates for a commitment to and a re-examination of the democratic purposes of schools.” This blog presents information from a reformer’s perspective.

dana boyd, Researcher
http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/
danah boyd is a researcher at Microsoft Research New England and a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Ms. boyd's work focuses primarily on youth culture and social media/networks. Reading this blog is a great way to stay current on issues around youth and technology.

PBS Learning Now
http://www.pbs.org/teachers/learning.now/
This blog explores how “new technology and internet culture affect how educators teach and children learn.” It provides information on wikis, blogs, vlogs, RSS, podcasts, social networking sites, and the overall culture of the internet.

Science After-School
http://scienceaftersch ool.blogspot.com/
This blog focuses on the potential for science and technology learning opportunities to enhance the excitement and educational experiences of youth. The author is the director of the Coalition for Science After School.
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Earth Day: An Opportunity for “Green” Youth Development

From Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” to talk of energy and drilling during the 2008 presidential election, environmental issues continue to be in the news more and more. No matter what your stance is, environmental issues provide a great opportunity for learning, skill-building, and academic and social development for children of all ages. This year, people across the world will celebrate Earth Day on Wednesday, April 22nd. In honor of this important day, consider putting an environmental spin on your usual youth development strategies and activities.

YD Practice:
Service Learning and Civic Engagement
Green Version: Environmental Activism
Earth Day always provides local opportunities to volunteer in a variety of ways, from leading campaigns to save energy and recycle to cleaning up rivers and parks. Thanks to the Earth Day Network, you can use this event locator to find local Earth Day events (happening all week long). http://earthday.net/search/location.

You can also check out the Action Network, an online community for environmental activism. There is an opportunity for anyone and everyone to write letters or otherwise show their support for green causes. http://actionnetwork.org/

YD Practice: Promoting Physical Activity
Green Version: Gardening
Did you know the average person burns nearly 300 calories in just one hour of gardening? Working in the outdoors is a great way for kids to be active and create something while getting exercise! As a bonus, planting fruits and vegetables can double as an opportunity to teach nutrition and healthy living.

YD Practice: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Education
Green Version: Focus on Bioscience and Energy Technology
Over the last few years, teaching STEM-related lessons has become central in many schools and out-of-school time programs. ActionBioscienc e has a great listing of lesson plans that focus on the intersection of science and the environment. http://www.actionbioscienc e.org/lessondirectory.html

You can also find a wide array of environment-rel ated activities on the North American Association for Environmental Education’s website. http://eelink.net/pages/EE+Activities+-+General

YD Practice:
Career Preparation
Green Version: Expore Green Collar Work
“Green collar” work opportunities are growing fast, and the U.S. has an expanding demand for professionals in a wide variety of green jobs. Information about these careers is not always readily available (do you know any child who wants to be a Photovoltaics Installer when he or she grows up?), especially in urban communities. To get a primer on the possibilities, see: http://ww2.earthday.net/greenjobs.
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Family Involvement in Education

According to the USDOE (and a plethora of research studies, articles, and advocates) family involvement in education is a crucial component to student success. Young people who have parents, grandparents, step-parents, or other guardians who take an interest in their education are more likely to succeed. It’s been noted that parents and guardians can control factors such as student absenteeism, reading at home, and television watching, and that these factors contribute to nearly 90% of the difference in eighth-grade math test scores across the country.

An April 6th NY Post article explored whether or not mayoral control has diminished family involvement in NYC schools. Carl Campinile explained that under mayoral control, the NYC Dept. of Education:
-Hired a parent coordinator in every school.
-Secured at least one parent advocate in every district.
-Created the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy.
-Required that parental involvement be part of principals' job evaluations.
-Made sure parents get more information through A-to-F progress reports.
-Had parents rate their schools through "Learning Environment" school surveys.

Despite these efforts, Chancellor Klein noted that there is still room for improvement.

So, what does this all mean? Parents and guardians are charged with participating actively in schools and education, regardless of who’s in charge, bureaucratic red tape, time restraints, and all the other things that could keep families out of the process. Here are a few tips on becoming an engaged and informed parent or guardian when it comes to education.

To do with/for your child:
-Read to and with your child. They will want to pursue reading if they are in an environment that encourages it.
-Designate time for homework, reading, and other enriching activities at home so it becomes part of your family’s routine.
-Limit time spent watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the internet. Although these activities can be part of your child’s cognitive and social development, they should not overshadow reading, writing, and creative play time.
-Encourage your child to go to school. Everyone needs a sick day now and then, but your child can’t learn if they skip school often.

To do as a parent or guardian:
-Get to know your school’s parent coordinator. It’s their job to stay informed and get information to you.
-Join the PTA. The PTA has several goals that even each beyond education, including supporting child welfare and changing public policy to better the lives of children. This is a great step toward making changes that can support your own children and well as others.
-Attend Parent-Teacher conferences. Sure, they often fall at a bad time and can be inconvenient, but teachers spend a lot of time with your child and can support you as you support your kids.
-Try coaching a sport, directing the school play, or otherwise volunteering some time for an activity that your child is involved in. This is a great opportunity to make a deeper connection with your child, which will further encourage them to stay on track. As a bonus, the adults in charge of these activities (who are often different from your child’s school teachers) will also be able to support your child-parent/guardian relationship.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Working with Digital Natives

In January, Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet and American Life Project published a very thought-provoki ng presentation on what he dubbed “digital natives.” Digital natives are young people aged 19 and younger; they have never lived without computers, e-mail, and all of the technology that has been developed since 1990. The presentation shows the progression of internet-based games, tools, and methods of communication, and provides statistics on how many teens use them today.

So, what do we need to know? Aside from the youngest youth workers (mostly afterschool and child care providers, camp counselors, sports coaches, and mentors), the vast majority of adults in education and youth services are not digital natives. There is an urgent need to recognize that today’s young people have had an extremely unique coming of age experience. We need to recognize that we don’t know what it’s like to learn and live in a completely digitized age, and that we have a responsibility to update our practice to respond to the changing e-world around us.

This presentation is a powerful reminder of the generational divide that exists and continues to grow. It is important to continue educating ourselves about youth development, technology, and our ever-changing digital world. If you work with young people, please check it out!

To view the presentation, see: http://www.pewinternet.org/Presentations/2009/Teens-and-the-i nternet.aspx.
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A Friendly Reminder: Tell People that Youth Programs Matter!

Times are tough. You can’t open a newspaper, turn on the t.v., or call a friend without acknowledging it. Tough times potentially mean big funding cuts to all sorts of social services, and youth programs are on the metaphorical chopping block. While I’ll keep my promise to remain nonpolitical (youth issues are EVERYONE’s issues), I hope the following information will help you to articulate why we need these services to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

Support for youth programs isn’t about serving or protecting any segment of the population – children of all races, socioeconomic backgrounds, and religions are at-risk for something (falling behind in school, being tempted by alcohol and drugs, having a distant parent, etc.). Where will our kids go after school? During the summers? When the schools fail them? For basic health care? I don’t know for sure, but I would imagine that without youth programs, kids will be bored at home, out on the streets, or virtually hanging out online where there is little or no access to caring adults, enriching activities, and physical activity. These are key aspects of youth programs that cannot be replicated elsewhere.

I’m a resident of Nassau County, so I will use my community as an example. As reported by NYNP on February 2nd, a number of county-funded organizations and initiatives would be affected by proposed social service cuts, including the Nassau County Youth Board and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Nassau County. These organizations support thousands upon thousands of youth throughout the county by providing parenting classes, pre-school programs, after-school and summer programs, teacher trainings, and access to health care. These organizations will almost certainly close their doors if they endure these cuts. I am concerned that funding cuts now will result in huge monetary and social costs later in my community and others – it costs exponentially more to serve a person in the juvenile justice system or to support them with welfare than it costs to provide them with a preventative, enriching program as a child. Research shows that every dollar invested in high-quality afterschool programs saves taxpayers roughly , and factoring in benefits from crime reduction raises that savings to - for every dollar invested in an at-risk child (Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College).

Let’s work together in our communities to make sure that our youth programs stay in tact. It’s your right as a citizen to speak up – write a letter, make a phone call, or join a movement to tell your local and state representatives that you care about our kids. To learn more about youth advocacy, check out:

The Afterschool Alliance
(national, www.afterschoolalli ance.org),

Winning Beginnings
(NYS, www.winningbeginnin gny.org),

The After-School Corporation
(NYC and NYS, www.tascorp.org),

Neighborhood Family Services Coalition
NYC, www.nfsc-nyc.org), or

The Coalition of Nassau County Youth Service Agencies (Nassau County).

These are just a few organizations – be sure to check out your local advocacy groups too!
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avatar Neela
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Thanks, Jen, for highlighting how Youth Programs cross population barriers... Every community needs programs to support, engage and motivate young people. By slashing funding to these groups, programs and organizations, we are slashing a PRIME opportunity to engage young people and help redirect them on a positive path. We are also losing a tremendous opportunity to intervene and create a hopeful vision of the future for so many people.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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New resource re: Disconnected Youth

As a quick follow-up to last week’s post, I wanted to share a resource hot-of-the-pres ses that may be of interest. The NYS Council on Children and Families published Kids Count 2008, a book of data about the state of youth in New York. The book includes very interesting statistics and facts that help us to better understand youth and, therefore, should really influence how we work with them.

Please check out this book at the link below:

http://www.ccf.state.ny.us/

(Scroll down and click on "NYS Touchstone/KIDS COUNT 2008 Data Book)

and let me know how you’re using this resource!
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avatar Rachel
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Hi Jennifer,
Thanks for your great blog. I have a relative who has already dropped out, he's 17 years old and he got his GED, but he is know a little lost in how to advance his life and job (he's working in a candy store.) What are some job training resources or other resources for disconnected youth his age?
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Rachel - Thanks for asking this question. It can be really difficult to find information without knowing where to start! It sounds like your relative is on the right track and just needs some support in making a transition into the workforce. Encourage him to move from having a "job" to having a "career" with the help of one of these agencies:

United Neighborhood Houses, http://www.unhny.org/beta/member/agency_list.cfm
UNH's member agencies offer neighborhood-ba sed services, including job training and job placement. Check out the link above to find your local UNH member agency.

NYC Dept. of Youth and Community Development, http://www.nyc.gov/html/dycd/html/jobs/jobs_internships.shtml
DYCD provides a range of workforce support programs for young adults. Follow this link to see a list of programs - and try to "program finder" tool in the top right corner to seek out an opportunity in your area.

NYC Employment and Training Coalition, http://www.nycetc.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=48497
Check out this link for a long (and I mean, LONG) list of agencies in NYC that provide job training and assistance. Although it can be daunting to review each agency, this is a great way to find a service that will fit your relative’s needs.

Lastly, there are many local organizations (like fellow blogger Bruce Carmel's agency, Turning Point - http://www.tpdomi.org/) that provide post-GED supports. It never hurts to contact a local agency to see if they can refer you to services in your own neighborhood.
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avatar Rachel
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Thanks Jennifer! I'm going to look into these resources right away. I'll let you know if he hits any successes. Thanks again for the comprehensive list.
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Engaging Disconnected Youth and Improving High School Graduation Rates

On Friday, March 6th, I had the privilege of attending Multiple Pathways to Success, the NYC Dropout Prevention Summit. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education, a startling 7,000 students become high school dropouts every school day. Of the nation’s 50 largest cities, NYC ranks 43 in its percentage of students who graduate on time (EPE Research Center). This issue is particularly problematic in low-income neighborhoods, where young people drop out of high school at six times the rate of students from higher-income neighborhoods.

The America's Promise Alliance has sponsored state- and city-wide forums across the country to raise awareness about this serious issue, and to call communities to action in supporting young people at-risk of dropping out (mostly middle school and early-high school students with less credits than their peers and one or more social risk factors) and those already out of school (generally 16-24, with very few high school credits earned). The Summit reinforced that these are unique populations with specific strengths and needs. Here are a few interesting strategies employed by the various agencies and organizations represented at the Summit for engaging youth at-risk of dropping out of school.

(I should be clear that not every strategy is recommended for every organization, nor should every organization be expected to have the capacity to fully serve this population. These strategies are meant to be infused in programs and services where possible.)

1. Create family-like communities.
Group support can be both engaging and comforting. Whether they’re study groups, sports teams, or bands, forming smaller groups of peers, supported by a caring adult, should give young people a stable, consistent experience that they will keep coming back to.

2. Use a primary person model.
According to the Youth Development Institute, “a primary person system is designed to provide all youth with specialized attention in one-to-one relationships with youth workers. In this system, staff and youth track a young person’s progress over time, revise plans, and coordinate resources.” Try assigning a special mentor or counselor to each young person you work with. You’ll become the person they don’t want to disappoint (though, simultaneously, you can’t disappoint them either!).

3. Don't rely on calling home.
Young adults use new ways of communicating. If a young person has skipped your program or blown off a counseling session, try text messaging, instant messaging via AIM, or MySpace-ing to find and re-engage them.

4. Build a school-communit y partnership.
Often times, schools are the experts in academic development while community-based organizations are better equipped to tend to the social and emotional needs of young people. These partnerships can be one of the most strategic, meaningful ways of supporting the growth of the “whole child.”

5. Speak to older youth as adults.
Many of these young people have been caring for themselves or making their own decisions for many years. While family engagement is important, recognize the independence of this population.

6. Offer multiple points of entry into your program or service.
If I were a young person who hated school, I would certainly not be inclined to sign up for something ELSE at school. If appropriate, consider using a community-based strategy for your recruitment and advertising efforts. This include marketing your program or service in schools, but also reaching out to young people in parks, houses of worship, rec centers, and even just out in the streets.
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avatar Ashleigh
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Jennifer,
Since you enjoyed this event, I thought you may be interested in CUNY's Youth Studies Colloquium on 5/7. Check out http://jfkjrinstitute.cuny.edu/news/YS%20Conference%20flyer.pdf
Your blog is great!
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Small Steps to Address a Growing Problem: Youth Obesity

According to the American Obesity Association, today's youth are “considered the most inactive generation in history caused in part by reductions in school physical education programs and unavailable or unsafe community recreational facilities.” In New York, 20% of children are obese (this is higher than the national average!). This epidemic is more prevalent among Black, Hispanic, and Native American youth. We know that childhood obesity can lead to a host of health problems, including diabetes, asthma, and sleep disorders. Overweight youth also face stigmas, teasing, and other social obstacles that can impact their mental health.

Here are a few steps we can take to encourage healthy behaviors and combat obesity among the youth we work with.

Educate yourself and seek creative ideas.
Learning more about health, fitness, and nutrition will equip you with additional skills and knowledge to share with young people. Check out Shaping America’s Youth (www.shapingamericas youth.org) for facts and news. Be sure to visit their program registry for ideas from around the country on programs that promote health, and try to adapt them in your activities!

Afterschool and summer programs should definitely check out the Healthy Kids, Healthy New York After-School initiative launched in 2008 by Governor Paterson. The Governor has made this issue a top priority, and has provided a toolkit for programs to learn more and get involved with the obesity prevention movement. Learn more here: http://www.nyshepa.org/healthykids.php.

Look into “walk therapy”.
A growing trend in the mental health field, walk therapy incorporates traditional counseling with movement, such as strolling through a park. Many psychologists suggest that exercise helps an individual to speak more openly and move passed stress more easily. If you work with youth as a counselor, psychologist, or mentor, try taking your sessions outside for a walk. The young person will have added mental and emotional benefits, plus the physical benefit of being active.

Use physical activity to encourage positive behavior.
Aside from it being part of good teaching practice, movement between and during activities has been proven to support positive behaviors in young people. As reported in Pediatrics in Review, a recent study conducted by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine proved that, among 8 and 9 year olds, one or more recess sessions of at least 15 minutes resulted in better classroom behavior – recess can actually support academic development. For programs that occur outside of schools, this recreational time could help young people to transition from school and unwind in preparation for a new activity.

Model healthy behaviors.
The old “do as I say, not as I do” routine won’t cut it when it comes to promoting health among youth. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, mentor, or youth worker, the young people you work with look up to you and will emulate your behaviors. If you’re not ready to revamp your lifestyle, you may start by making choices that promote health and fitness when you’re directly around with young people. This includes eating nutritious meals and snacks, getting active, and avoiding speaking negatively about your body as well as others’.
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Last weekend, the Oscars were awarded. While I’m pretty sure they still give them out based on talent, the only reports I saw were about dresses and jewelry, strutting down the red carpet, after-parties, and after-after-par ties. It’s amazing how celeb-obssessed our country has become. I mostly blame television and the internet (thanks a lot, TMZ).

What’s saddening is the way our young people are responding – many popular, young celebrities model behavior and attitudes that tweens and teens are trying to emulate. Young adults are bombarded with images of alcohol and drugs, partying, over-the-top fashion, and careless spending – and it all looks glamorous. Materialistic tendencies seem to be growing exponentially. The socio-economic divisions we’ve tried to erase with years of activism are slowly returning among young people with iPhones, Louis Vutton bags, and Ed Hardy shirts. This phenomenon is derailing our efforts to raise intelligent, respectful, confident young people and there has to be a way to stop it.

That’s where we come in. If you’re a parent, youth worker, teacher, or otherwise interested party, I hope you’ll consider how you can do your part to change the dialogue around fame and pop culture. Here are a few ideas:

Focus on talent and skills.

Save Paris Hilton, most celebrities made it where they are thanks to talent and hard work (or at least one of the two). When working with young people who strive to live like Britney Spears, try coaching them on opportunities in the arts. If they think they’re the next big thing, work with them to understand that celebrity-statu s requires dedication. Help them to learn about careers in acting, dancing, singing, writing, directing, set and costume design, or other behind-the-scen es contributions to film and music. Try to channel their interests toward extracurricular activities, like the drama club.

Remind them of the “ugly” side of fame.

There’s a fine line between classy and trashy. Famous people who fall into the latter category look ridiculous and pay for their actions in the public eye, and our young people should recognize that others will build perceptions of them based on how they present themselves. There are a number of interesting stories to pull from; if you can find the time, familiarize yourself with the stories of celebrities who’ve been arrested (T.I., Nicole Ritchie), developed eating disorders (Lindsey Lohan), or tragically died due to unnatural causes (Notorious B.I.G., Heath Ledger). These are just a few examples, the lists go on. You can’t deny that these celebrities went down the wrong road in life, and young people should get the full story before idolizing their lifestyles.

Introduce them to entrepreneurshi p.

Sometimes its “all about the benjamins” when it comes to young people’s celebrity fascination. Especially with youth growing up in underprivileged environments, it’s hard to argue with their admiration of wealthy singers, athletes, and actors. However, it’s important to introduce them to other lines of work that can be just as lucrative, and that require more brains and strategy and less dieting and flirting. In addition to traditional jobs, young people might be intrigued by entrepreneurshi p. Tell any teenager that they can work in any field that interests them, make a six-figure salary, and work for themselves, and they’ll probably want to hear more. For a young adult who’s following celebrities for the “excitement,” they may find a start-up venture to have that same appeal. Tell them to conduct an internet search for “youth and business” or “young entrepreneurs” to learn more. They can even attend trainings or enter competitions in their teen years to start building a successful career (sans paparazzi).

Final thought: Not all celebrities are bad people. In fact, most of them are probably lovely. What I’m referencing here is the culture of excess that surrounds young celebrities and how it is affecting children who are much too young to be dressing, spending, and acting like their Hollywood counterparts. I hope we can shift young people’s focus to strive for success, impact, and happiness, not wealth, looks, and fame.
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avatar Evelyn Davila
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I like purple, blue and many other hues. Every day I am becoming entrigued on how society ect.. can make a positive impact toward our youth. I would like to be introduced to Jennifer here and anyone else who has repsonded to these blogs. I think it is important, in basic standing to know who you are conversing to and where they are coming from. It add value and meaning to allthe effort. Look forward to introductions. I am certified as a recreation therapst, studied recreation education and presently work as a recreation coordinator for a homeless shelter. I aspire to do more work involving developing the life skills of the youth.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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In keeping with the theme of the last post (along with every news report, blog, and water cooler conversation in the country), this week’s post focuses on the federal government’s stimulus package. We’ve heard plenty about the details of the package, but here we will focus on how national youth advocates see it as an opportunity to bring resources to young people.

National Education Association (NEA)
NEA has published charts that describe how much funding is available for education and related programs in the conference report (the current version of the stimulus package, which isn’t officially the final version just yet) for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
There is just over 0 billion available nationally for federally-funde d education programs, and .5 billion for NYS. These funds will be included in a number of programs, including Head Start, Child Care and Development Block grants, Pell grants, and school modernization and technology improvement programs. These figures also include state stabilization funds, 61% of which must be used for education.
For more on education and related funds in the stimulus package, see: http://www.nea.org/home/29549.htm.

Every Child Matters (ECM)
ECM aims to make children a national political priority, and has been closely following the national economic recovery plan. They have recently released a new edition of “Homeland Insecurity... Why new investments in children and youth must be a priority for the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress.” This publication shows areas in which the government is not fulfilling basic commitments to children, and argues that investments in youth programs can improve the state of the country. The report states, “A key ingredient in creating the nation’s great wealth has long been its willingness to invest in new opportunities for all its children, helping them become productive members of society. But in recent decades… national investments in a wide range of children’s health and social programs have been declining as a percentage of domestic spending in the federal budget.”
For more on “Homeland Insecurity” and other resources, see: http://www.everychildmatte rs.org/.

Afterschool Alliance
The Afterschool Alliance has provided a number of resources on their website to both secure funds for afterschool programs from the stimulus package and assist program providers to access those funds as states begin dispersing them. They’ve provided talking points for advocates and providers to use, which include:
- We can help keep America’s workers employed, provide new jobs, help parents find work, and prepare our nation’s future workforce.
- We need to support America’s struggling working families. Families are relying even more on afterschool supports as they work to keep their jobs, take on more hours, or struggle to afford basic necessities for their children.
- Afterschool programs provide the added value of investing in our future workforce. Children in afterschool programs do better in school, are more likely to graduate and are exploring pathways to new careers. Investing in afterschool programs now is a down payment on tomorrow's workforce, and a successful economy. As US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, we need to “educate our way to a better economy.
…and don’t forget – for every dollar invested in afterschool programs, taxpayers save !
For more, see the Afterschool Alliance website on the economy: http://afterschoolalli ance.org/policyEconRecov ery.cfm.
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Do-It-Yourself Stimulus Package for Youth Programs

Like other service fields, youth workers are in a paradoxical situation: the economy is in a downturn, which leads to less funding and staff, yet because of the hardships associated with bad economic times, demand for services is on the rise. Providing young people with what they need, whether it’s health care, enrichment activities, counseling, or safe spaces, is crucial when families are losing income (and patience) during these tough times. Youth services are not a luxury and we can’t afford to downsize operations or trade quality to meet demand. The only option is to do more with less (or, at least, the same with less). Here are several ways youth programs can save funds during tough economic times:

1. Revamp your volunteer recruitment efforts.
Do members of your community know how to become volunteers at your program or facility? Ideally, information about volunteering should be shared frequently. As we know, the baby boomer generation is beginning to retire, and having a strong volunteer recruitment strategy in place now could attract many skilled do-gooders in the near future. Beyond baby boomers, look to recruit older youth and college students to work with your young people. With a little training (and, don’t forget, a screening process) these volunteers can connect with youth and may bring specialized skills (sports, arts, etc.) to your work. You’re also providing an enriching opportunity for the young adult volunteers; as a bonus, they will gain skills that they’ll need in college and the workforce. Before recruitment begins, be sure someone on your staff is familiar with your state and local regulations for bringing volunteers into your program or facility.

2. Minimize food costs.
Ok, so snacks or supper aren’t putting you into the red. Still, there are savings to be found by seeking out donations, and it doesn’t mean going to a food pantry. Many producers or stores will offer free food to non-profits; for example, Starbucks donates products to community-servi ng organizations (see: http://www.starbucks.com/aboutus/giving.asp). Companies launching new products often distribute free samples, so contacting them could be an easy start. Remember, there may be young people that you work with who have parents and guardians who just lost a job. Keeping a stash of accessible, “free” food might supply a breakfast or lunch for a child who otherwise would have skipped the meal.

If you operate a summer program and serve primarily low-income youth, providing snacks and meals with federal money just got easier. According to the Center for Summer Learning, the Simplified Summer Food Program “removes complicated accounting rules that were previously required through the traditional Summer Food Program,” which decreases the paperwork required and streamlines participation. For more information, visit the Food Research Action Center: www.frac.org.

3. Conduct inventory more often and more carefully.
Ever wonder why you have to order construction paper – again? Materials and equipment can be necessary to running activities, but there are savings to be recognized by ordering smartly. Conducting inventory regularly will help you avoid placing frequent small orders (and paying shipping separately every time) and placing last minute orders (which often require an expedited shipping fee). Program staff should also be asked to watch young people’s use of the materials to be sure nothing goes to waste. Only buy materials in bulk if you have a dry, secure place to store them.

4. Get creative!
Speaking of materials, consider reviewing your activity plans to determine which materials are necessities and which may be expendable. Sometimes a little creativity goes a long way; my favorite activities as a kid didn’t require much at all. Try reviewing ideas for activities to inspire creative thinking about activities. For free, searchable databases, try the National 4-H Council: http://www.4-hdirectory.org/search.aspx or Southwest Educational Development Laboratory: http://www.sedl.org/afterschool/resources/curriculum.html.

5. Go (mostly) digital.
Printing and paper costs add up, and may not be worth it in the long run. When possible, try e-mailing forms and flyers to parents and guardians – give them the option to receive news and updates from you by regular mail or by e-mail to ensure all families can access information. To take it a step further, try an easy-to-use e-newsletter or website template to take your information to a wide audience. (This can double as a marketing strategy, which can lend itself to more support for the program – a double whammy!)

Final thought: Tough times require tough decisions to be made. Holding on to a program, strategy, or (sadly) a staff person for too long could threaten the viability of your organization. Try to keep things in perspective – it’s all for the young people you serve! Be mission-driven and you will make it through the tough fiscal times ahead.
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avatar Lorraine Lopez
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I love it, Jen!!! Lots of great information for youth workers. Lorraine
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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It seems like there is a lot of interest out there in strategies in using online technology to work with youth, so here are a few additional notes on the topic:

Social networking:
As previously mentioned, Facebook and MySpace are the most popular social networking sites among tweens and teens. Although Facebook originated as a college students-only site, it quickly grew to include high school students and eventually evolved to include anyone interested with an email address. Young people typically use these sites to communicate with friends and join groups that show their interests, affiliations, and activities.

Beyond these two sites, many others exist. Friendster was one of the original social networks but isn’t used as widely as it was when it was first launched. Twitter is a site where you can update friends on what you’re doing (a virtual post-it note left to alert people to where you are), and use of this site is growing. Ning is a site where anyone can create their own social network – the possibilities are endless! Still, for connecting with youth, you can’t beat the reach that Facebook and MySpace have.

Media:
Unless you live under a rock, you’re probably heard of YouTube as a way that many people view and share videos of just about anything. It’s also a great way to share information about your programs for young people – they can see it in action! Flickr is a popular photo-sharing site, which can serve the same purpose.

Information-sha ring:
Blogging is the new journaling. Writing a blog regularly can be a great way to get information out to young people and keep them engaged in your program or in school. Be sure to continue updating it so readers return to your site often!
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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A 21st Century Strategy for Working with Young People

If you work with young people, you’ve probably realized that online social networks have taken tweens and teens by storm. It seems like young people now speak exclusively in an unfamiliar vocabulary: friending (adding someone to your list of acquaintances), un-friending (see: friending), tagging (identifying themselves in pictures), and poking (sending a message to a non-friend). If you work with youth, it’s important to understand what these networks are, how they are affecting young people, and how we can use them to our advantage.

Online Social What?
Online social networks are websites where people have a personal profile and connect with other people or groups. In its first two years, MySpace had 47.3 million people sign up and was named Google’s top gaining site in 2005; its popularity has continued to grow since then. Facebook currently has more than 150 million active users, and more than half of these active users return daily. There are many other online social networking sites (including specialty sites; for example, LinkedIn is aimed at business networking), though MySpace and Facebook are the most widely used.

It has long been a concern that online social networks posed dangers to young people. Interestingly, a study published this month by a taskforce led by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University found that this isn’t as big of a threat as originally assumed. The taskforce found that most networkers were never solicited, and those that are typically display other signs of being at-risk for this danger (e.g. negative home environments). Despite this encouraging finding, it is extremely important for adults to be mindful of the serious dangers that can exist in the virtual world. Aside from the most egregious incidents that can occur via the world wide web, the taskforce found that other issues, such as cyber-bullying, seem to be a more widespread problem.

Using Online Social Networking Sites for Good
If approached correctly, online social networks can be used as a tool to build and strengthen relationships with young people. Given today’s computer-based world, many young people feel more comfortable expressing themselves online; networking sites can connect youth workers in a way that young people find more safe and engaging. Events geared toward youth can be publicized through networking sites. As an example, an organization I’m familiar with recently used Facebook for the first time to advertise an event that has been held annually for several years. Attendance this year was much higher than in previous years and it seemed that many participants had learned of the event through the Facebook invitation. Online social networks have a “viral” affect – individuals can forward information and share invitations with friends, and therefore the audience reached grows exponentially.

A strong word of caution: all online communication with young people should be done in a professional way in a public forum; i.e. youth workers should opt to use public communicating versus private messaging to ensure that the relationship is transparent. Furthermore, if you have staff using online communication as representatives of your agency or organization, all online communication should be reviewed. I recommend creating an “official” group or page for your program and to streamline all communication through the official site.

In addition to using the networking sites for communication, there are many teachable opportunities that adults can use when working with youth. You heard it hear first, folks – 21st century curricula used in schools as well as in afterschool and summer programs will increasingly include online social networks. It would be in youth developers best interest to incorporate networking sites into lessons, for example, on marketing, sociology, or technology. Wondering how that this might be done? Here is a sample activity on social perceptions and self-image:

Young people have two minutes to review a network profile page for Jane Doe. Jane’s picture shows her striking a pose at a party. Jane is 16 and her interests include “hanging out, having fun, and enjoying life”. Her favorite books are “books?” and she has a long list of messages from friends about slacking at school and planning parties and other get-togethers for friends.

Young people then have another two minutes to review a profile page for Joan Doe. Joan’s picture shows her with a few friends outdoors. Joan is also 16 and her interests include “reading, spending time with friends and family, and volunteering”. Her favorite books are “Catcher in the Rye and Maya Angelou’s poetry” and she has a long list of messages from friends about studying for tests and attending events at the local YMCA.

The adult then facilitates a conversation about “advertising” oneself in the world. The group discusses how the pages are different and what each person might consider changing about their pages. The group should address that while Jane and Joan are probably both nice young women, they portray themselves in different ways that can have an impact on their relationships with friends and boys, their chances for getting into colleges, and their first impressions on potential employers.
(If you’re interested in more information on this activity, please send me a response and I would be happy to share additional details!)

Final Thought:
If you have politics-fever after last week’s inauguration, you’ll be pleased to know that this topic was partially inspired by President Obama’s campaign strategy to use the internet to mobilize people and raise funds. The future is now, and it’s time for us all to embrace 21st century ways of connecting.
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avatar Matthea Marquart
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Hi Jennifer,

I love this activity idea! Sounds like it could lead to a really meaningful discussion.

Best,
Matthea (fellow NYNP blogger)
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avatar Rodney Fuller
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Jennifer,

Outstanding entry! Thoughtful and even handed. I believe that your intended audience, and beyond can really benefit. The activity is a wonderful idea! Keep blogging!

Rodney
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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It Takes a Village… Really.
Why Taking Care of Youth is a Community Responsibility

Navigating growing up, particularly adolescence, can be tough. Many of us remember (though some of us try to forget) what growing up was like. Consider the factors that affect today’s young people: the pressure of standardized tests and performing well in school, substance use and abuse among friends, the lure of gangs and crime, peer pressure, the constant distraction of social networking sites, and dealing with weight and self-esteem during an obesity epidemic. These issues don’t affect any one group of youth – a white picket fence or skin color do not prevent these issues from affecting young people. This post will address why “we” (concerned adults, et al.) should care about youth and what we can do to support them. I hope the statistics about youth will awaken concern, but for those who remain unconvinced, I’ve also put forth an economic argument that may do the trick.

Why Should We Care? (the appeal to your heart)

There is a serious national need to step-up efforts to protect and serve youth; studies show that injury and violence are the leading cause of death among youth aged 5-19, 3.75 million teenagers contract an STD each year, and there is a drop-out epidemic among high school students (in NYC alone, over 21,000 students drop out each year). Youth who do not have safe, enriching spaces to go to when they’re not in school face a number of disadvantages; teens who do not participate in a program after school are nearly three times more likely to skip classes and use drugs.

How Does it Affect Me? (the appeal to your wallet)

If you need more of a reason to get involved, consider the return on investments in youth programs. Research shows that every dollar invested in an at-risk child brings a return of 8.92 and 12.90, particularly due to a reduction in child care, crime, and welfare costs and an increase in earning potential for the child. Furthermore, parents miss an average of 8 days of work per year directly due to a lack of child care. Decreased worker productivity related to concerns about child care costs businesses up to 300 billion per year. That’s serious cash, and a serious reason to consider your involvement in caring for youth in your community.

What can we do?

I’ve collected a few exemplary ideas for community investment in youth. I encourage you to consider how you could start or join an initiative like these in your neighborhood.

Community Groups: In reading Mobilizing the Community to Help Students Succeed by Hugh B. Price, former President and CEO of the National Urban League, Price outlines two particular strategies to support student success through community-based initiatives. First established in 1996, National Urban League affiliates declared September “Achievement Month,” a time for communities to get together at parades, festivals, and other events to encourage students to succeed in the academic year to come. Imagine a ticker-tape parade at the Canyon of Heroes, but instead of overpaid athletes (no offense, Yankees) the marchers were students who were celebrating their commitment to school and community service.

Remember the kid in school who was seemingly good at everything and had a permanent place on your auditorium’s stage? In Mobilizing the Community, Price also discusses community-based honor societies that honor both top students AND students who have shown promise or reached personal goals, whether they be achieving a certain grade or maintaining positive, productive behavior. By rewarding positive behaviors for all youth (not just top achievers), we can reach a larger group of students who are typically ignored by traditional award systems. Any community group can find a myriad of ways to reward local youth, whether it’s an honor society, a party, a field trip, or a simple certificate recognizing youth for showing promise.

Parents: Also cited in Price’s book, Group 2012 was formed by 15 or so families, including the parents of nearly every black male sixth-grader at Eagle Ridge Middle School in Ashburn, Virginia, to support their sons’ education and ensure their on-time graduation in 2012. The families accomplish this goal by holding regular meetings, offering homework assistance, communicating regularly with youth, encouraging the students’ participation in community service activities, and building strong relationships with the school.

Fire Department: In collaboration with the Rochester City School District, the Rochester Fire Department runs the Fire Fighter Trainee Program, which offers high school students a “unique, multi-year opportunity to learn by doing – and be exposed to what they need to know be successful in several different career options with the City of Rochester.” Students have access to paid and unpaid opportunities to learn about fire fighting, public safety, health and medicine, and more.

Businesses and Higher Education: The San Diego Biotechnology Education Consortium (SDBEC) is a group formed by the science education community in San Diego. Essentially, this group recognized that companies in the area were outsourcing work because local students weren’t graduating with the skills needed to fulfill their vacant jobs. Through collaboration between educators and businesspeople, San Diego youth have an increased chance at landing a job in the local biotechnology industry thanks to access to more education and skill-building opportunities, such as internships, all secured by the SDBEC.

City Agency: In Redwood City, CA, the city has committed to a long-term plan that incorporates youth development and adult partnerships into a unified strategy to take responsibility for the “development and inclusion of their young people as current and future leaders of the city.” The plan includes public agencies, families, schools, neighborhood groups, policymakers, and youth to work together.

What can I do?

There are also a number of things we can each do to serve and protect youth. Mentoring a young person can have a tremendous impact on their life. According to Big Brothers, Big Sisters, statistics show that children who are mentored are more likely to improve in school and less likely to use illegal drugs or alcohol. If you have a teachable skill (which can be anything from engineering to cooking to magic tricks), consider joining Citizen Schools, an organization that aims to “mobilize a second shift of afternoon educators,” who provide academic support and apprenticeships (projects taught by volunteers) in low-income middle schools. If you are strapped for time, try searching for one-time opportunities at Volunteer Match. Of course, if you’re a parent, the best thing you can do is being an engaged, caring role model in your child’s life.

Final Thought: Many researchers note the success gangs have in engaging the disengaged. Gang membership can provide a sense of belonging and protection that young people haven’t found elsewhere. It’s time for communities to use these strategies. I challenge our youth programs, houses of worship, social and civic groups, and other community organizations to come up with their own (proverbial) “handshakes and colors.” You may think it’s just a tee shirt or an awards ceremony, but you’re engaging a young person with an opportunity to belong to and be protected by something they can be proud of, and that will make a huge difference.


Key resources used:
Hugh B. Price, Mobilizing the Community to Help Students Succeed

Statistics on youth issues:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/10/20051027.html
http://afterschoolalli ance.org/researchFactShe ets.cfm
www.claremontmckenn a.edu/rose/publications/pdf/after_school.pdf
http://www.afterschoolalli ance.org/after_out.cfm

Organizations utilizing individual volunteers:
www.bigbrothersbigs isters.org
www.citizenschools.org
www.volunteermatch.org/search/advanced.jsp
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Hey all! Robert from VolunteerMatch.org here. What a great article. Just to note: anyone can come to VolunteerMatch and search for opportunities not just with us, but with the 62,000 organizations that participate in our network! There's something for everyone: www.volunteermatch.org
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avatar Jennifer Siaca
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Thanks for making your way to this blog on youth issues. Here, we will cover a wide range of topics that affect youth and the services provided for them. While this blog might be of the most interest to youth workers, parents, and non-profit managers, government agency staff, and policymakers that work on youth issues, it will be written to appeal to all and I hope others will read. This introductory post will help us get acquainted (sort of) so you know what to expect when you read.

Posts will address current topics such as youth and technology, the obesity epidemic, and school reform (or “learning reform” as I will call it). Some posts will have a clear link to service provision; others may be about concepts, research, or books of interest. My goals are to either 1) influence the way you provide services to youth, and/or 2) inspire new thinking in the field. I hope to be interesting yet non-controversi al.

Speaking of non-controversi al, this blog isn’t intended to have any political slant. Youth issues are not conservative or liberal, nor do they only affect a faction of our population. While we don’t all agree about how to get there, it seems most people share the opinion that youth are important and deserve a high-quality education, health care, and an equitable shot at becoming productive and happy citizens. Although I won’t claim this blog to be a true piece of journalistic work (as I assume my opinion will leak through on occasion, plus I hope to be funny from time to time), I do intend to remain objective and to do some digging on the facts.

This blog shouldn’t be a one-way stream of information and I encourage you to write in with topics you’re interested in or alternative ways of thinking. If it does seem know-it-all-y, it’s because I’ve decided that I, in fact, actually know it all about the topic (joke alert).

I hope it’s ok that I’ve avoided the traditional blog introduction in which the author tells you about themselves and how their personality will influence their writing. (In case you’re wondering, I was born and raised in Queens, NY and am an only child. I like the color blue. That seems sufficient.) Beyond this introductory post, you won’t read many “I’s” or “my’s” here, as the field of youth services belongs to youth and those of us who support them.

I hope you will share responses, questions, and experiences in the space provided. You’re welcome to challenge what I’ve written and I’ll do my best to respond (unless your response is mean-spirited, in which case I won’t respond and I’ll immediately tell on you to my mom). Thank you again for reading and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you.

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avatar Bruce Carmel
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Hi Jennifer. I am blogging here too. I read yours first because it's about youth and a lot of my work with youth. I like what you wrote. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. My piece of this thing is going to be different from yours, I think. I am not going to try to keep out my opinions or my political slants--but I hope I will be transparent about that. I won't be presenting my views as any sort of fact. And I almost forgot--I like blue too!
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