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Opportunity Youth: Disenfranchised Young People

Opportunity Youth: Disenfranchised Young People

they will be on the way

they will be on the way to a hopeful future marked by positive contributions to self, family, community, and civil society." The major catalyst for the development of positive youth development came as a response to the negative and punitive methods of the "traditional youth development" approach. The traditional approach makes a connection between the changes occurring during adolescent years and either the beginning or peaking of several important public health and social problems, including homicide, suicide, substance use and abuse, sexually transmitted infections and teen and unplanned pregnancies. Another aspect of the traditional approach lies in that many professionals and mass media contribute to it through the portrayal of adolescents as "inevitable problems" that simply need to be fixed. Specific evidence of this "problem-centered" model is present across professional fields that deal with young people. Many connections can also be made to the current U.S. criminal justice model that favors punishment as opposed to prevention. The concept and practice of positive youth development "grew from the dissatisfaction with a predominant view that underestimated the true capacities of young people by focusing on their deficits rather than their development potential". Encouraging the positive development of adolescents can help to lessen the likelihood of such problems arising by easing a healthy transition into adulthood. Goals PYD focuses on the active promotion of optimal human development, rather than on the scientific study of age related change, distinguishing it from the study of child development or adolescent development. or as solely a means of avoiding risky behaviors. Rather than grounding its developmental approach in the presence of adversity, risk or challenge, a PYD approach considers the potential and capacity of each individual young person. A hallmark of these programs is that they are based on the concept that children and adolescents have strengths and abilities unique to their developmental stage and that they are not merely "inadequate" or "undeveloped" adults. Lerner and colleagues write: "The goal of the positive youth development perspective is to promote positive outcomes. This idea is in contrast to a perspective that focuses on punishment and the idea that adolescents are broken". Positive youth development is both a vision, an ideology and a new vocabulary for engaging with youth development. Its tenets can be organized into the 5 C's which are: competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring. When these 5 C's are present, the 6th C of "contribution" is realized. Key Features Positive youth development programs typically recognize contextual variability in youths' experience and in what is considered "healthy" or "optimal" development for youth in different settings or cultures. This cultural sensitivity reflects the influence of Page 30 of 72

Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems theory. The influence of ecological systems theory is also seen on the emphasis many youth development programs place on the interrelationship of different social contexts through which the development person moves (e.g. family, peers, school, work, and leisure). The University of Minnesota's Keys to Quality Youth Development summarizes eight key elements of programs that successfully promote youth development. Such programs are physically and emotionally safe, give youth a sense of belonging and ownership and foster their self-worth, allow them to discover their "selves" (identities, interests, strengths), foster high quality and supportive relations with peers and adults, help youth recognize conflicting values and develop their own, foster the development of new skills, have fun, and have hope for the future. In addition, programs that employ PYD principles generally have one or more of the following features: promote bonding foster resilience promote social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and moral competence foster self-determination foster spirituality foster self-efficacy foster clear and positive identity foster belief in the future Page 31 of 72

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