Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Positive Youth Development - More Than Just Programs

At Aliquippa Impact, we do much more than simply provide programs for youth.  Rather, we are providing opportunities for youth within a thoughtful framework of positive youth development.

Our programs utilize a particular philosophy of youth development programming recommended by the National Research Council in 2002 in a study entitled “Community Programs to Promote Youth Development.” In its study, the National Research Council identified certain physical, intellectual, psychological, and social assets that every youth program, regardless of its particular activity focus, ought to facilitate in youth. Likewise, the Search Institue through research identified forty developmental assets that are healthy to foster in youth.  It is our hope that all of our programs provide the positive youth development atmosphere that is needed to facilitate the growth of assets in the youth who attend our programs.

Aliquippa Impact has for years now utilized this positive youth development framework and asset building focus in all of its programming. In order for particular asssets to be developed in the lives of youth, our programs reflect the recommendations of the National Research Council:

  • Our programs are safe – psychologically and physically. The safety of our programs are guarded by safe place polices that protect both staff and youth.
  • Our programs provide structure that is developmentally appropriate with clear expectations for behavior.
  • Our programs provide emotional and moral supports.
  • Our programs provide youth with the opportunity to experience supportive adult relationships.
  • Our programs provide youth with the opportunity to feel a sense of belonging and of being valued.
  • Our programs provide youth with the opportunity to learn how to form close, durable human relationships with peers that support and reinforce healthy behaviors.
  • Our programs give youth the opportunity to develop positive social values.
  • By providing certain activities, our programs give youth the opportunity for skill building and mastery.
  • Our programs give youth the space to develop confidence in their own abilities.
  • Our programs give youth some level of opportunity to make a contribution to the community and to feel a sense of empowerment.
  • Our programs seek to form strong links with other influencers in the lives of youth – families, schools, and broader community resourcces.

We believe that creating this type of environment at each program is the key to seeing lasting development in the lives of young people. By providing our staff with thorough training in creating this type of program environment, our programs are then able to assist youth in developing certain important social, intellectual, spiritual, relational, and psychological assets.  The more opportunity students have to develop assets and rise to their God-given potential, the more likely they are to resist environments that can be harmful to positive youth development and lead to at-risk behaviors.

At Aliquippa Impact, this positive youth development framework and commitment to asset-building in youth expresses itself in four primary ways:

Prevention
When youth are placed in healthy environments that are supportive, they will flourish and grow into who God created them to be.  By facilitating encouragement, hope, and opportunity in the lives of students we help to prevent the participation of students in at-risk behaviors.  When youth feel loved and valued, they gain the strength they need to make healthy decisions and say "no" to unhealthy decisions.  As we like to say at Aliquippa Impact, "If you put a crown above a child's head they will grow up into it."  We believe that by valuing the youth in our programs they begin to value themselves and others - and that makes the difference.  Our summer youth programs and mentoring program help to prevent the involvement of youth in unhealthy behaviors.

Outreach
We are very much part of our own community at Aliquippa Impact.  We don't just wait for people and youth to come to us - we go to them.  Through a regular and active street presence as well as other outreach events, we get to know and listen to the people and youth of our communities.  Eventually, this leads us to meet youth who are looking for hope and a future past their current situation.  Out on the streets, we speak hope.  This allows us to then connect these youth with opportunity.

Intervention
Some youth, due to years of experiencing hopelessness and despair, begin to give up on themselves.  This is the sad reality of many under-resourced communities - they are under-resourced in hope as much as they are anything else.  When students find themselves wrapped up in negative behavior and harmful choices, we do not believe it is time to give up.  Restoration, healing, and a positive future are always still a possibility.  This is why our A Future Anticipated program seeks to intervene in the lives of youth already feeling the negative consequences of poor choices.  By walking beside youth, healing and redeption is possible.

Transition
It is not enough to simply serve youth while they are young.  Transition into productive adulthood can be very challening, and we continue to look for ways to support youth in achieving their goals.  By doing this, we ensure that the investment of hope put into youth in our other programs comes to full fruition.


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