In our work world, evidence-based practice and evidence-based research are King. Objectives, outcomes, and goals are commonplace. In my supervisory role I stress that we have to have proof that we are doing really works. I am a huge proponent of civic engagement and so as I was thinking about the upcoming Dr. Martin Luther King Day and the Youth Service America kick off a semester of service I decided to go a bit further and hit the internet to provide you with documentation that supports what I’ve seen in my experience and know in my heart is an effective aspect of youth development.
I searched many websites using variations of the phrase “youth in foster care volunteer”. I came across a 2007 press release for a survey conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service titled, “Disadvantaged Teens Benefit from Volunteering, But Do it Less than Better-Off Peers”. There were key points from the study that proved useful such as ‘service can have a powerful impact on a young person’s life”. But what I found most interesting and not surprising at all is that all the other articles and searches resulted in requests for the community to volunteer to help “youth in foster care”, “foster Youth”, “youth aging out of foster care”, “youth in impoverished communities” and the list went on and on. The youth that I am working with were constantly being referred to as recipients of services rather than service providers. As I searched I kept thinking to myself “Ms. Nicki you have a lot work to do”.
I teach my youth that they do not have to be a victim of their environment and that their current circumstances do not exclude them from greatness. Our youth have so much to offer. Our job as worker is to help them recognize and nurture their strengths, talents, and skills. I use community service opportunities to build connections, explore careers, gain work experience, and instill a sense of accomplishment. I was delighted to find that the press release from Corporation for National and Community Service quoted CEO David Eisner as saying, “We need to do two things: reach more disadvantaged youth through service, and help more providers of youth services to engage young people as assets rather than simply treating them as clients.” Although I’m not a fan of the term “disadvantaged youth”. (I do like that one hundred times more than the term “at risk youth”) it was like Mr. Eisner was reading my mind and I thank him publicly in this blog post.
So, if no one else has told you before I want to be the first to say that your youth are youth “at promise”. I wholeheartedly believe that all youth “need opportunities to succeed and recognition for a job well done.” Working to improve their lives and community and the lives of other youth in similar situations can provide an awesome opportunity for you to uncover the awesomeness in your youth. And please remember to recognize and reward their efforts. How will your youth serve?
Here is the link to the press release in case you want to read further: http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/newsroom/releases_detail.asp?tbl_pr_id=676
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic enrichment opportunities to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs.