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October 2011 Archives

Wake up to the expertise of older youth


Beki-Saito.jpgIn preparation for a workshop I did recently on mentoring teenagers, I googled "mentoring older youth" to learn about current research and practice. Virtually all of the links that came up made the assumption that older youth were troubled youth, or high-risk youth, e.g., "juvenile delinquents," pregnant and parenting teens, youth in foster care or with parents in prison. What is that about?!

It's ageism, plain and simple. There is such a pervasive belief that teenagers are not to be trusted, are "screwed up," are something to be avoided or "dealt with" rather than that they are creative, ever-changing, exciting, cool people with strengths and expertise. You see this not only in the research that is conducted but also in the news, movies and TV, conversations with friends, family and neighbors, as well as where we spend our public dollars (youth intervention versus youth development).

Great expectations are good predictors of science careers


Pamela-Nippolt.jpgWhen young people are asked, "What kind of work do you expect to be doing when you are 30 years old?", it turns out that their responses are quite accurate predictions of their college majors.

A 2006 study of young adolescents' career expectations, led by researchers at the University of Virginia, investigated whether 13-year-olds with an expectation for a science-related career obtained science degrees at higher rates than 13-year-olds without this expectation. They do - or at least they did - in a national sample of youth studied during the years 1988 through 2000, and published in 2006.

The study factored in differences in academic achievement, academic characteristics, and demographics, and followed young people living in the U.S. over time. Young people were asked to select one employment option from a list (only one!) and their career expectations were sorted into two groups -- science-related and non-science.

Access and the opportunity gap


Josey-Landrieu.jpgIn his inaugural address a few weeks ago, the new University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler called upon us to move the university forward in terms of research, access, and excellence, using the word "access" 13 times.

Issues of access apply to out-of-school-time learning, as well as higher ed. Listening to the latest reports and events in our field have sparked important questions for me about access to positive educational opportunities for all young people.

How can we ensure that all youth (especially those who need it the most) have access to well structured and well implemented programs? How can out-of-school time (OST) programs connect youth with positive learning opportunities? How can we as youth development scholars and practitioners level the playing field for all youth?

Remembering Peter Benson: May 2, 1946-Oct 2, 2011


Dale-Blyth.jpgYouth development lost a champion this week. I first met Peter Benson in the early 1980s in Arizona at one of the first adolescent research meetings. I remember his bright boyish charms even then. He had just conducted a seminal study of early adolescents and was humble and eager to learn. We next met in Chicago in 1990 when he was presenting publicly for the first time on the developmental assets. Here was a man saying what youth needed positively in their lives -- not just trying to understand their development or count their problems.

I was quite taken by him and by his work and soon joined him at Search Institute as the director of research and evaluation. I remember my family having dinner with his family as we moved to Minneapolis and feeling I had found a soul mate. We joked and told stories with our families. I never felt more instantly at home than I did that night.

Is all this online socialization a good thing?


Trudy-Dunham.jpgTeens are texters. They almost all have cell phones, which they are more likely to use to text than call their friends, on average about 50 times a day. They are heavy users of the Internet, and of social networking sites (SNS). Is all this online socialization a good thing?

We've heard about the downside. The driving while texting or talking on a cell phone.The cyberbullying. Sexting. The idealized presentations of self in online profiles. The continuous partial attention that keeps us attentive to messages from our online friends while giving less to the teacher, hurting school performance.

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