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Results tagged “Joanna Tzenis”

Skills development should not be our primary goal

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgTo what extent does skill development matter for youth and their futures? What else do they need to follow their dreams in education?

In a past blog entry, I used the capabilities approach as a framework to understand the various conditions that may influence whether or not a youth may translate his or her STEM knowledge into a STEM career. I offered that scenario as an example, but this doesn't mean we expect all youth in STEM clubs to pursue STEM professions. If we measured the effectiveness of STEM programs by the number of engineers we produced, we'd be painting an incomplete picture.

Rethinking youth program sustainability

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgIs program sustainability all about money?

Grants can offer new resources and opportunities to youth programs and the communities in which they take place. The Minnesota Sustainable Community Project (MN SCP), funded by the USDA from 2008 to 2013, helped us to create eight new youth programs throughout the state. In these programs, youth developed leadership skills, gained new mastery and expertise in a subject area and made plans to meet their long-term goals in education.

We knew the benefits to these communities could not be fleeting. To sustain them beyond the life of the grant, we worked within a research-backed conceptual framework.

Turning STEM skills into STEM capabilities

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgWhat real opportunities do youth have to pursue STEM-related professions? Learning engineering skills is one thing, but knowing how to become an engineer is something else.

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) has emerged has an educational buzzword over the last few years. K-12 schools, higher education and non-formal educational programs alike have all increased their efforts to improve STEM learning and outcomes.

This effort comes in direct response to President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, launched in 2009. The national problem this campaign addresses is twofold: American students are lagging behind other countries in achievement measures in these subjects. Further, U.S. Department of Labor data show that of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation, but our young people lack the skills and training to fill these jobs.

Reaching new youth audiences through partnerships

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgCommunity-based programs are great at connecting with local youth. Universities have deep pockets and organizational infrastructure. Partnerships between them can combine these strengths.

In a previous blog post, I discussed how all youth can and do benefit from youth programs, but they are disproportionately valuable to the welfare of low-income or marginalized youth. Ironically, there is a shortage of youth programs designed for this audience. How can a large organization connect with youth locally? Research suggests that the key to engaging new audiences in youth programs lies in partnerships. There is a need for universities to partner with smaller, autonomously funded youth programs because these programs are most effective at reaching youth in high-risk situations.

How do we talk about education without imposing our values?

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgHow do you talk about education with immigrant families? Even those of us most experienced in intercultural communications can stumble when discussing such a value-laden subject.

In my work with the Pathways Project and the Minnesota CYFAR project, both of which have a focus on academic and personal success for youth from nontraditional Extension audiences, parents of the youth involved are committed to their children's academic success. But visions of success can vary.

Youth programs designed for those who need them most

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgDid you know that time spent in youth programs is the most consistent predictor of youth thriving? Participation in them can enhance young people's self-esteem, school performance and civic responsibility. But which youth benefit the most?

While all youth can and do benefit from youth programs, they are disproportionately valuable to the welfare of low-income or marginalized youth.Those who have fewer resources -- financial, cultural, and social -- benefit disproportionately more from programs than youth who have plenty. Ironically, there is a severe shortage of youth programs designed for at-risk youth.

Joanna-Tzenis.jpgWe know that youth programs have public value. But does the greater community know? Recipients of public funds must defend their use of public resources by demonstrating the value to the community, not just the value gained by the individuals who participate. Can you articulate what that is? Have you been doing so?

My Extension colleague Laura Kalambokidis works with educators in youth development and other fields across the nation on how to demonstrate the public value of their programs. Laura did a survey of educators that shows that of those who do not infuse a public value approach in their work, the primary reason is that they do not have enough time. To me, this suggests we view this approach as something "extra" to tack onto our plan of work. I would argue that demonstrating public value helps us to prioritize our work and involves changing how we talk about what we do and how we measure the impact of our work.

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