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May 2011 Archives

Dilemmas of practice: What's a youth worker to do?


Kate-Walker.jpgYouth work practice is complex and dynamic. It is riddled with situations that are layered and involved, dealing with multiple considerations and changing circumstances. These dilemmas represent the knotty situations even experienced practitioners face every day. In these situations, there is no formula or manual that tells the youth worker what to do.

Last week, Cece wrote about how personal ethics inform decision making in these situations. Much of my work focuses on the dilemmas of youth work - exploring the range of dilemmas encountered, as well as the features of effective responses.

Cecilia-Gran.jpgA youth worker in Minneapolis told me about how she dealt with conflict between English-speaking and Hmong-speaking youth at her neighborhood recreation center. The English-only speakers accused the Hmong speakers of talking about them, and situation brewed into a fistfight. To resolve the problem, the youth worker made a rule that they must all speak English while they were at the center. She felt that her solution attempted to level the playing field between the groups of youth. But did it?

I think this youth worker had good intentions, but the outcome of her decision ended up being unjust and unfair to the Hmong-speaking youth. Our decisions and judgments are never neutral, even when we intend them to be.

Kimberly-Asche.jpgA recent University of Minnesota research study reveals that parents of young children have poorer eating habits and exercise less than their peers, contributing to high body mass index. Question: what would a similar study of youth program leaders find? Are we modeling healthy living?

Valor Publico: Translating youth leadership from Mexico


Pamela-Nippolt.jpgOn a trip to Mexico a couple of weeks ago as a participant in National Extension Leadership Development, I had a chance to see a community health organization that is still going strong 20 years after being founded by a group of youth. As a youth development educator, I was struck by the power of youth when they are engaged as leaders in their community. As an program evaluator, I got to thinking about factors that play into sustaining a program and its overall value to the public over time.

nextgen-main-logo.jpgWhat is the role of after-school programs in educating our youth? In The Need to Reframe Afterschool Expectations, Robert Halpern challenged the trend toward aligning after-school programs with academic achievement. As I participated last month in the National AfterSchool Association Convention in Orlando;(NAA), I was concerned by the number of discussions regarding the direction of 21st Century programs becoming more of an extended academic day.

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