Getting Started on Our Project, ICON Consultant- Laurie

Our project is to develop standard operating procedures for twenty-three youth centers that provide outreach services for vulnerable youth aged 12-29. Most centers have been open less than a year and are struggling to recruit volunteers while simultaneously launching sports programs, English classes, computer training and a host of other life skills workshops. These centers target youth who are vulnerable to gang activity and other violence. It was interesting to hear from our project sponsor how senior government officials and diplomats won’t use the term “at-risk youth”, even though these kids live in gang-infested neighborhoods with a host of risk factors. The government officials insisted that the program approach the problem from a positive youth development perspective. Once I started researching Positive Youth Development however, I was impressed that it originates from solid social science research and is used around the world.

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About Positive Youth Development
Positive youth development programs are most often designed with the intent of protecting youth from specific risks (e.g., substance use, violence-prone neighborhoods) or to promote specific role transitions (e.g., entry into work). Prevention approaches to youth development attempt to intervene in the lives of at-risk youth before children show evidence of developmental disturbance.
PYD suggests that helping young people achieve their full potential is the best way to prevent them from engaging in risky behaviors. There are many variations of this approach but important constructs included in all variations are promoting a sense of safety; providing appropriate structures; creating supportive relationships; providing opportunities to belong; providing positive social norms; giving youth responsibilities and meaningful challenges; and providing opportunities for skill building. One of the hallmarks of the positive youth development movement is that it is built on a foundation of scientific research.