The Rapidian

Youth development programs that really make an impact

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Club members demonstrating the second key element of youth development: FUN!

Club members demonstrating the second key element of youth development: FUN!

What exactly is “Youth Development”? How do you know that programs serving youth are really making an impact?

Youth Development programs prepare young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood. Programs must be structured with a progressive series of activities and experiences that help them obtain social, emotional,
ethical, physical, and cognitive competencies.

These programs address the broader developmental assets all
children and youth need (such as caring relationships, safe places and activities, health and mental health, marketable skills, and opportunities for service and civic participation), instead of deficit-based approaches which focus solely on youth problems.

Rather than only looking for ways to stop young people from engaging in risky behaviors, positive youth development aims to mobilize communities to create positive goals and outcomes for all youth. It recognizes that being problem-free is not the same as being fully prepared.  

Effective programs are
youth centered; staff and activities engage young people's diverse talents, skills, and interests, building on their strengths and involving them in planning and decision-making.

They are also
knowledge centered; programs build a range of life skills, offering activities to show youth that "learning" is a reason to be involved. Whether they are in sports, clubs, arts, or community service, youth development professionals provide opportunities to connect with a wide array of adult and peer mentors.

Youth development programs are also
care-centered; they provide family-like environments where youth can feel safe and build trusting relationships.

Boys & Girls Clubs offer Youth
Development Programs to hundreds of boys and girls every day. The level of    impact that a Club has on these young people depends on the frequency of their participation and the degree to which the Club implements five key elements in its operations.  These key elements drive all of our efforts to have a lasting impact on youth.

1. A Safe, Positive Environment
2. Fun
3. Supportive Relationships with Peers and Adults
4. Opportunities and Expectations
5. Recognition

Frequency of participation is
another key factor in positive youth development. Studies have shown that if programs can serve youth at least three hours per day and at least three days per week, the impact of change they can instill in these youth is significantly increased.

Boys & Girls Clubs are open for members from after school (approximately 3:30pm) until 9pm each day during the school year. We are open extended hours most days when schools are out. We call these hours “impact hours.” Other than schools and the juvenile justice system, there are few, if any other youth service organizations, which have as many impact hours as Boys & Girls Clubs. 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth follows this model of youth development helping to positively affect our youth and our future.

Article written by Pat Gunnin & Sara Schneider


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