PYD can be integrated into any youth development program. First and foremost, all youth-serving organizations should work toward assuring that young people have the chance to engage in positive relationships and interactions that can help them develop into healthy and productive adults. PYD strategies also include providing youth with access to experiences that help them learn healthy and valued behaviors, expectations, and principles. The following model was developed by Jacquelynne Eccles (2011) and describes the types of opportunities that should be provided to young people and how these opportunities help young people develop into happy, healthy, and secure young adults.
Eccles, J. (2011). Community-based programs for youth. Presented at National Academies of Science Conference: 10 Year Follow-Up to “Community Programs to Promote Youth Development.”
A comprehensive review of the research literature focused on community programs for youth,1 identified key environmental factors and experiences that have been found to promote PYD. These factors and experiences are recommended by experts to be integrated into PYD programs. They include:
Physical and Psychological Safety
A program should provide ground rules that are developed, agreed upon, and posted by the youth participants. Adequately trained staff members who understand and respect youth are essential to providing a safe space for a positive program experience. A program should also include youth and adults who are trained in team building and can understand and recognize symptoms of cliques and find alternative means for using group and team-building exercises.
A program should provide appropriate youth-to-adult ratios for supervision, a system for ensuring that youth are welcomed when they arrive, and a balance for different learning styles in programmatic activities.
Programs should create opportunities where youth share their interests and work collaboratively with their peers. Staff should be trained in handling conflict, recognizing symptoms of withdrawal, and understanding how to engage youth without singling them out.
Opportunities to Belong
A program should provide opportunities for youth to be engaged in small group activities based on interest. Structured team building should also be provided to ensure that all youth have a chance to get acquainted. For the youth to feel involved, opportunities for sharing need to be incorporated into each activity.
Positive Social Norms
Programs should engage youth and program staff in creating a respectful environment that involves a respect for diversity and culture in activities.
Opportunities to Make a Difference
A program should engage youth in exploring career and workforce opportunities, provide occasions for goal setting, and create opportunities for youth to make a difference in service learning or peer support.
Opportunities for Skill Development
Programs should provide opportunities for youth to master and apply skills and engage the youth in determining choices toward progression of new levels of learning.
Integration of Family, School, and Community Efforts
A program needs to incorporate ways to engage parents and/or guardians, staff, and youth participants through family activities, newsletters, websites, and program policies. Programs should be aware of when youth are in school or out of school and plan accordingly to support youth and their families in extended programming opportunities. Additionally, programs should be mindful of certain populations such as disconnected youth, that may be more difficult to engage and how best to get them involved in programming.
Building Partnerships for Youth
Building Partnerships for Youth, a partnership between the National 4-H Council and the University of Arizona, is designed to build the capacity of youth-serving organizations in the fields of education, health, faith, and youth development. The goal is to facilitate intentional integration of youth development concepts and approaches into policies and programs.
Family and Youth Services Bureau Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The mission of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) is to provide national leadership on youth and family issues. FYSB promotes positive outcomes for children, youth, and families by supporting a wide range of comprehensive services and collaborations at the local, tribal, state, and national levels. Grant programs supported by FYSB include the Mentoring Children of Prisoners Program, Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs, and Family Violence Prevention and Services.
National Initiative to Improve Adolescent Health
The National Initiative to Improve Adolescent Health is a collaborative effort to improve the health, safety, and well-being of adolescents and young adults ages 10–24. The initiative was launched and is led by Division of Adolescent and School Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration and is supported by a group of partner organizations. A range of resources, including a guide for state agencies and local organizations, is available on this website.
Positive Youth Development Resource Manual (PDF, 210 pages)
Developed by the ACT for Youth and the Upstate Center for Excellence at Cornell University, this manual provides resources and tools for community members and professionals to help promote PYD in their communities and assist organizational and community change.
Runaway and Homeless Youth Training and Technical Assistance Center
This is a centralized national resource for Runaway and Homeless Youth grantees funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Training and technical assistance are directed at assisting the grantees to engage in continuous quality improvement of their services and to build their capacity to effectively serve runaway and homeless youth.
Eight Successful Youth Engagement Approaches
This webpage from the Office of Adolescent Health offers approaches and resources for successful youth engagement including topics such as: youth councils, youth governance, youth serving on boards, youth voice, youth advocacy, and youth organizing.
1 Eccles & Gootman, 2002