Friday, December 11, 2015

Strengthening Youth Development Workforce

Youth Development is an important field because it provides youth with meaningful educational, social, and emotional growth opportunities outside of school. Providing quality out of school programs helps foster independent critical thinking skills and provides youth an opportunity to develop leadership skills.

It is important to invest in this field and produce high quality youth workers for these programs to be successful. The Youth Development major at Rhode Island College is doing this by providing partnerships and opportunities to work with local youth in the community, while helping future youth workers to develop professional skills and tools to use with youth. It is exciting to be a part of this relatively new program at RIC, and I believe it is already having a positive impact on youth workers and youth in Rhode Island.

YDEV Event #2 - Lights on Afterschool! Breakfast of Champions

For my second event, I attended the Lights on Afterschool! Breakfast of Champions. The Rhode Island Afterschool Plus Alliance (RIASPA) coordinated this event, and this was the 13th year. According to the RIASPA, the purpose of this event was to bring awareness to the "critical need for and importance of afterschool and summer programs to children, youth, families, and communities; and increased awareness and support for afterschool and summer programs among policymakers, funders, and other decision makers."

The theme of this year was Passion, Potential, and Possibility. All of the speakers did a wonderful job of talking about their experience as youth, working with youth, and the importance of partnerships and involvement in all facets of the local community to provide all youth with opportunities to fully develop their potential. It was also very exciting to see Jonathon Kozol, who was the keynote speaker, since we read his work for our classes and he has so much knowledge and experience in the field. We were also able to meet YDEV alumni from previous years and share experiences with each other and make connections. I really enjoyed this event because I got to learn about youth development in our local community, and all of the different organizations and youth workers who are involved and committed to serving our local youth. It really solidified my passion for the field, and I am very lucky and grateful that I was able to attend.

YDEV Family!

YDEV Event #1 - OBOM

OBOM, 2006

For my first YDEV event, I attended the Open Books - Open Minds family stories reception.
From their website, Open Books – Open Minds is described as "reimagining the role of the common book at Rhode Island College. Common reading programs seek to generate intellectual and social engagement throughout the campus and help to create a sense of community, increase the vitality of academic discourse, and overall improve participants' feelings about their school." OBOM began in 2006, and is a way for students, faculty, and alumni to connect through book discussions, film screenings, and share their own writing or research based on the book.

This year, the book that was chosen was The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. For the family stories reception, participants shared their stories about their family and history. I really enjoyed hearing these stories because it was a way to learn things about others in the community and Rhode Island College. Later in the semester when we watch Adichie's TEDtalk, The Danger of a Single Story. I thought back to this event and thought about the fact that everyone's past experiences and history help shape who they are, and until you get to know someone's full story, you don't have a complete understanding of who they are. This is especially important in youth work, because every child is unique and needs to be understood on an individual level.

More information about OBOM can be found here on the Rhode Island College website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


“Training students in mindfulness demonstrates benefits including improvements in working memory attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional regulation, and self-esteem, as well as self-reported improvements in mood, decreases in anxiety, stress, and fatigue.” – John Mikleton, Mindful Magazine

ResilientKids is a Rhode Island based youth program aimed at serving elementary, middle, and high school students to reduce stress, facilitate learning and provide opportunities for personal growth. I had heard about ResilientKids previously but did not know what kind of work they did, or that it was a local program. Vanessa Weiner, the founder of ResilientKids, recognized the need for students to have positive opportunities to deal with stress, and that providing students with the tools and strategies needed to do so has a positive impact on students' emotional well being and academic success. From reading their website and watching their videos, I saw that ResilientKids is very hands-on, and has different methods and skills for various learners. For example, doing yoga and breathng exercises allows for physical learners to get up and move. Visual learners also benefit from a glitter jar that gets shaken up, and gives students a visual cue to relax themselves as the glitter settles.

What I took away from learning about ResilientKids is that they do not just come in and work with the students. They provide students with a toolbox to self-regulate and manage their own behaviors. Instead of being told to calm down, they are shown ways to calm themselves down if they are feeling anxious or upset. The students are learning skills that they can use throughout all areas of their lives.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Danger of a single story

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of my favorite speakers to watch on TEDtalks, and I got to watch this particular one in a social work class last week. She talks about the harm that only seeing things, like people, places, and communities, from one perspective, and how that forms prejudice and doesn't allow you to see "the whole picture". What I especially like about this TEDtalk is when Adichie talks about moving in with her roommate, who wants to hear her "tribal" music and wondered how she spoke English so well. Her roommate had already had an idea of what Adichie was like and had made assumptions about Nigeria. Her roommate seemed to be coming from a place of genuine interest and wanted to learn about Adichie, but in the process of only having one story of people from Nigeria made her prejudice against Adichie. In my social work class we discussed further that there are negative ad positive stereotypes, although all stereotypes are damaging and don't leave room for you to see someone's whole story.

A single story I have heard about youth is that the ones who act out at school are just bad kids who misbehave. This made me think back to reading Nakkula and Toshalis, and about Antwon and Ms. Peterson. She thought he was just disruptive and a trouble maker, but when she made a more personal connection and got to know him, she saw that he was having trouble with testing and she was able to have a positive impact on him. When you get one idea of someone if your head, it can stop you from seeing all of their strengths and potential.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Self Identity in Context

In the Nakkula and Toshalis chapter 2, we are introduced to a student named Julian. Julian faces different expectations from the various people in his life (friends, parents, teachers) in a variety of settings. He is having difficulty with how he sees himself and how others see him. When what people expect of him are at odds, he risks being alienated from his peers or people close to him. Julian then works with Mitch, a school counselor, and does context mapping. Context mapping is when you list the different settings and roles you assume throughout the day, and the relationships you have within these different settings. When Julian did this, he was asked to think about which relationships and spaces made him feel safe or anxious, and this helped him to work through his self-identity and expression.

The four different identities are achieved identity, foreclosed identity, moratorium, and diffuse identity.

Achieved identity is when a person works through their conflicts of self-identity and are able to recognize their true self.

Foreclosed identity is when a person assumes a role or identity without exploring alternatives or thinking about other ways that they might be.

Diffuse identity is when a person is exploring many different roles or identities without committing to one. There is more thought given to self-identity at this stage, but not as much as with an achieved identity.

Moratorium is when a person is exploring different roles and identity in their different places and relationships. The difference between diffuse identity and moratorium is that the individual is having a crisis with their identity in the moratorium stage, whereas there is no crisis in diffuse identity.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My coauthored story

This week, I was asked to think about a person who has helped write my life story. Reading the Nakkula and Toshalis chapter and completing this blog assignment gave me insight to the fact that everyone you meet has some kind of impact on you and you impact them, whether it is big or small. Coming up with the list of ten people made me think about friends, educators, and others who have impacted my life in ways I hadn't even realized. The chapter also emphasized that youth and youth workers shape each others stories through their interactions and experiences. Like we have experienced in our Youth Development courses, we both teach and are taught by youth. I believe this is a crucial aspect of youth work and I will keep that in mind in my work with youth.

Someone that has played a very important part in my life and has helped coauthor my story is my sister. We are only a year apart in age and grew up together. We are still very close and have most of our mutual friends in common. We have always been a support to each other and are able to remind each other of our strengths when one of us might be doubting ourselves. She also is able to give me advice or help me to think about a problem I might encounter and how to best handle it. Having someone who understands me and has my best interests at heart has helped me to grow as a person and has helped shape my life into what it is today.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Color Brave

This week for our Youth Development class, we were asked to watch a TED talk by Mellody Hobson about being "color blind or color brave". Mellody talks about her life experiences as an African American woman and the importance of promoting diversity and sharing ideas and experiences. What really impacted me was the story she told about being seven years old and being the only African American at a birthday party. When her mom picked her up, she asked, "How did they treat you?" This made me think about my own privileges that come along with being a white female. Talking about race and culture rather than ignoring it is important to see things from a different perspective. I believe that everyone has something to learn from everyone, so I agree with Mellody that getting to know a variety of people can make a huge, positive impact in our communities.

This TED talk also tied into a topic that we discussed in another course I am taking this semester. Our topic this week was about cultural sensitivity and diversity in the work place. I found an article about Marilyn Tam, a former CEO of Aveda, president of Reebok and vice president of Nike, who discussed talking with the importance of diversity in the workplace at a seminar in Vermont. Tam discusses the challenges of being raised in a traditional Chinese family in Hong Kong, and the challenges she faced to overcome cultural expectations and run a company. The article discusses the growing diversity in the world, and the importance of accepting and reflecting that change in companies and businesses. Tam focuses on the importance of women and people of various cultural backgrounds in leadership positions in companies, which tied in nicely to the points that Mellody made about a lack of diversity in the top positions at companies.

In my personal experience, I felt invisible seeing CEOs, leaders, scientists, and other people in prominent, powerful positions. I hardly ever saw women in these positions, and often heard that women weren't as logical, or as good at math and science as men. These statements can get internalized, and prevent women from pursuing "non-traditional" careers. There are some excellent programs here in RI for young women, including GRRL Tech RI and Girl's Rock! RI. Both give youth an opportunity to see women in areas that are predominately held by males.I believe that youth spaces like these and the many others in which the youth get involved in their community and address current issues are essential to combating invisibility to minority populations. These spaces give youth a voice and empower them to identify issues that are important to them in their lives.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

YD Ideology Inventory Horoscope

The area of Youth Development that I identified with through the quiz was Positive Youth Development. I took this quiz last semester in YDEV 250 and got the same result. Positive Youth Development focuses on external and internal assets that youth have. The main idea of Positive YD is to provide positive external assets for youth that will help them develop positive internal assets. This means providing a safe space and support as a youth worker for students to learn and grow. It also highlights the importance of recognizing the individual strengths of youth to facilitate positive growth and learning.

I do identify with Positive YD and was not surprised that I was in this category. All of the Youth Development categories are important in their own ways, but I identify with positive the most because it's very strengths-based, and I believe it is important to help youth learn their strengths and potential.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

What is Youth Work?

Youth work is an educational practice:

What this means is that youth work is non-traditional learning opportunities outside of the classroom. Through different clubs, activities, and programs, youth workers work with youth using different techniques and in a variety of settings to help youth learn and grow.

Youth work is a social practice:

Youth workers often work in group settings to help nurture social interaction and involvement with peers, families, and communities. Since many youth work programs or opportunities have smaller groups,and socialization is encouraged among youth, youth have more opportunities to get to know others through various activities and icebreakers.

Youth workers actively challenge inequality and work towards social justice:

I think what this means is that it is so important as a youth worker to be mindful of inequality among youth and to do everything you can to provide equal opportunities among all youth through various programs.

Where possible, young people choose to be involved:

Unlike traditional school settings, youth have more of a choice to what kind of youth work programs they would like to be involved in. I believe this gives youth more of an opportunity to pursue their passions and have more freedom to express themselves and be creative.

Youth work seeks to strengthen the voice and influence of young people:

I related this point to the work that we did in YDEV 250 with TALL U. Youth were always given an opportunity to express themselves and their feelings through a variety of mediums, such as dance or a play. Social issues that affected the TALL U students were discussed and they got involved in the community to voice their opinions, such as going to the state house to speak out about gun control and police brutality.

Youth work is a welfare practice:

Youth work is often a way to provide services and opportunities that may not be available in a school setting. Giving youth another space to learn, socialize, and have youth workers to talk with or confide in is important to the welfare of youth.

Youth work work with young people holistically:

In many of my social work courses we discuss a "strengths based perspective". It is important as a youth worker to know the youth you work with, and to recognize their strengths and get to know them. Focusing only on the issues they may be dealing with can make them feel alienated and misunderstood, and could have a negative impact on them.

Who Am I

My sister and brother in law, who aren't just my family but also my best friends!

A picture I took on the ferry to Block Island this summer. I love the beach and swimming and I try to go to all of the different beaches around RI.

Another of me hanging around the water. I'm new to kayaking but getting the hang of it! (kind of)

I love going to shows and seeing live music. This is a picture of Father John Misty who I went to see in Portland, Maine last month.

I also really enjoy cooking. This is some eggplant I grew and roasted with linguine, a spicy tomato sauce and fresh parsley.