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Advancing Youth Development workshop unites community to help support youth

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Some of the Advancing Youth Development (AYD) course participants after receiving their certificate of completion.

Some of the Advancing Youth Development (AYD) course participants after receiving their certificate of completion. /Sara Schneider

Camp O'Malley Director Becky Reed admiring her certificate.

Camp O'Malley Director Becky Reed admiring her certificate. /Sara Schneider

AYD Certificate of Completion

AYD Certificate of Completion /Sara Schneider

At the end of 2009, three local organizations came together to facilitate a training session to improve Grand Rapids’ youth development strategies. The Advancing Youth Development (AYD) course provided participants with the opportunity to gain a familiarity with the youth development approach and use this approach to explore, share, and learn new strategies for working with young people.

Susan Sheppard of The Arbor Circle, Patti Warmington of Life Guidance Services, and Patrick Gunnin of Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth were selected as facilitators through the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program. Extended learning opportunities such as before- and after-school, weekend, and summer programming can provide youth with a positive alternative to spending time engaged in unsafe activities or atmospheres.

In the workshop, participants studied the AYD approach, which is founded on the belief that young people thrive when they are developmentally supported across all sectors of the community – school, youth serving agencies, faith organizations, and more.

“This training is important because as adults, we too often think that we know what is best for all youth,” said Gunnin. “We do not give our older youth the opportunities and services they need to develop the skills to succeed.”

The training included six sessions throughout October, November, and December, and allowed participants to strengthen their communication skills, identify barriers to organizational changes, discuss practical applications of the AYD approach, and form an informal network of support for each other.

The 2009 course included 14 participants from varying organizations. Each organization is responsible for maintaining follow-up for their participants; however, the facilitators are looking at creating a network of course graduates to continue the dialogue.

“Continuing the conversation is the only way to make sure we are helping our youth in the best way possible,” said Camp O’Malley Director and course participant Becky Reed. “Even though we all serve youth in different ways, we are a community and need to be consistent.”

The AYD approach is a concept gaining much attention within youth development circles. This training was the first of its kind in the Grand Rapids area, but the facilitators are already planning for future courses to be held at the end of the school year/beginning of the summer season.

Workshops such as the Advancing Youth Development course help to align our community organizations in order to best serve the youth in this community. To find out more information, email [email protected].

Article written by Sara Schneider.

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