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Results tagged “Jessica Russo”

What is "urban" youth development?

Jessica-Russo-2013.jpgRace has shaped the definition of the word "urban." This provokes a question for us in the Minnesota 4-H Urban Youth Development Office: what exactly is "urban" youth development?

We have developed the following strategies, or ways of working, in our effort to serve the most marginalized (but not necessarily urban) youth.

To narrow the achievement gap, don't forget to play

Jessica-Russo-2013.jpgAt a recent event, I was inspired by the story of a high school principal who turned a failing school around by focusing on making the students happy. Poor achievement, low attendance, and general naughtiness caused by poverty, hunger, domestic violence, you name it, had resulted in high levels of stress in students, parents, teachers, administration. Quite simply, the kids were unhappy. But what to do -- More math class?

Rather than hiring more reading and math specialists, this principal hired more art and gym teachers. He brought in partners and other resources that would to help provide a safe environment for youth to play, get dirty, and explore, through programs such as Extension's 4-H and Master Gardeners. Students liked it. They got more interested in school and test scores improved dramatically.

They're thriving in the program, but do they have goals beyond it?

Jessica-Russo-2013.jpgAlexander Cho and other participatory observers of a high-quality after school digital media program discovered that youth who were some of the most engaged and committed to the program also began to shrink from school obligations and abandon plans for attending college.

For these young people, the future was vague and uncertain "due in large part to lack of family financial resources and the absence of an intuitive post-secondary roadmap." In short, they were unable to connect the 21st century skills they were gaining in the program to future possibility, such as higher education or career options.

To me, this dissonance between the learning environment and the future of these youth points to the vital importance of helping young people connect WHAT they are learning to what they can DO with that learning.

Opening doors with a global mind-set

Jessica-Russo.jpgFor young people entering a 21st century workforce, a global mind-set is not only important. It is vital to their healthy, happy development.

What is a global mind-set, and how do we cultivate this in young people who, like adults, gravitate towards the familiar?

Gupta and Govindarajan describe a global mind-set as an awareness and openness to diversity combined with a tendency and ability to integrate new knowledge and experiences across cultures. I like to think of a global mind-set in terms of the doors it opens. A global mind-set allows for healthy encounters with others representing diverse cultures, races, ages, gender, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints. And a global mind-set allows these encounters to penetrate our experience in a way that encourages us to expand the way we think and act, combining old and new ways of going about the world.

Do you dare to be coached?

Jessica-Russo.jpgIn my experience, most youth work professionals are constantly scrutinizing their own work. But how willing are we to allow others to do so? Could coaching be a key to developing satisfaction for professionals in our field?

In a recent report, Dana Fusco explores "the tension between a trial-by-fire approach to training [of youth work professionals] versus the overtraining that can lead to the 'anesthesia of the expert' or the loss of the 'heart.'" She concludes that knowledge and knowing are positioned "not as end products but as processes within the learning journey that require ongoing visitation."

Can citizenship programs help to solve the bullying problem?

Jessica-Russo.jpgBullying is in the news again. It may have contributed to yet another school shooting in Chardon, Ohio this week. Bullying is not a product of a modern age, but has been increasingly scrutinized in the past decade. After the Columbine High School massacre U.S. Secret Service officials found that bullying "in terms that approached torment," played a part in two-thirds of the 37 premeditated school shootings they analyzed.

The effects and causes of bullying are complex. According to Limber, individual, familial, societal and community factors play roles, and the impacts can be physical, emotional and psychological for victims, perpetrators, and witnesses.

Create learning environments that bring out the "angel in the marble"

Jessica-Russo.jpgOne of the most difficult aspects of working with groups of young people is managing behavior. As adults, when unruliness or its potential ensues, it can be hard not to revert to "adult default," ignoring our desire to incorporate youth voice in order to re-establish a more comfortable level of control.

So how much should effective "behavior management" be about managing behavior, and how much should it be about managing (or really, creating) the environment? To me, the goal of behavior management is not for the adult to control the child -- the goal is for the child to learn a sense of independence and inter-dependence that brings about self-control.

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