Tag Archives: how to impact youth

Occupied With Inequality

Day 9 Occupy Wall Street September 25 2011 Sha...

While hundreds of people occupy Wall Street, calling on the 99% to stand up against the 1%, inequality has become the new buzzword.  But is income and wealth inequality only a recent issue, unique to a small group of 20-somethings in the 2000’s?  Of course not, economic injustice and inequality of opportunity have plagued the United States, and especially the African-American community, since its founding.  However, a slow-to-thaw recession and diminishing opportunities for work have motivated a different population to mobilize against the economic injustices they are only now beginning to feel.

While incomes have generally risen in the United States in the past decades, incomes for African-Americans have risen at a slower rate than their white counterparts. This income disparity carries into future generations, as parents struggle to provide proper housing, food, healthcare and education for their children.  Hiring discrimination persists as African-Americans tend be chosen less often for the same jobs than do European Americans or Caucasians.  Income inequality then is the cumulative result of a series of factors, that begin with the inability to obtain higher paying jobs and the forced segregation of low-income housing.

Unrelenting income inequality has not been the result of overt, institutionalized oppression or segregation, but rather, is caused by more subtle forces that begin with minor prejudices and take shape in discriminatory lending, redlining, skewed school district lines and many other socioeconomic factors.

As depicted in the chart of median personal income by race and education from the 2006 Census and the graph published by the U.S. Census Bureau on Median Household Income across race, the average incomes of African-Americans are consistently less than white Americans, even at levels of higher education, and decades after the Civil Rights movement.

Race

Median personal income

Overall Median

High school graduate

Some college

Bachelor’s degree or higher

Bachelor’s degree

Masters degree

 Adv.

degrees

White M $40,432 $33,805 $40,427 $61,175 $55,129 $67,903 $77,818
F $26,636 $21,306 $25,190 $40,161 $36,076 $45,555 $56,759
Both $32,919 $27,291 $31,510 $49,879 $43,841 $52,244 $71,184
Black M $30,549 $25,747 $32,758 $46,474 $41,889 $52,488 N/A
F $25,435 $20,366 $25,574 $42,461 $41,263 $45,830 N/A
Both $27,110 $22,328 $27,589 $44,460 $41,565 $47,407 $61,993

Income inequality in the United States is an old story, especially for African-Americans.  So, why organize now?  And who are the occupiers down in Zuccotti Park?

With one tenth of the population unemployed, and far more underemployed, with growing foreclosures, looming personal debt and little promise that change is on the horizon, there is a conviction among many that, perhaps, they have been slighted: enter “The Occupiers”.

Zuccotti Park finds itself teeming with primarily young people, who are primarily white.  They represent a group of people who have grown up believing that a college education, which they obtained without much obstruction, would secure them some financial stability and even a job after graduation.  Feeling duped by society’s promise, they see exorbitant bonuses for CEOs and the big bank bailouts as unjust in the face of their plight.

In many ways, lower Manhattan’s Occupy Wall Street is about the economic injustices that a young population of people has only begun to experience.  Meanwhile, the African-American community has been party to a more pervasive inequality for decades.  The income gap as displayed in the graph above points to the consistent income inequality that African American’s have felt, with no trend suggesting that this gap will soon close.

So it seemed inevitable that an Occupy Harlem would sprout up, as it did on Friday October 28, 2011, at St. Phillip’s Church in Central Harlem.  While the Occupy Harlem borrows from the “blueprint” of Occupy Wall Street grievances, it addresses, more specifically, the historic plight of inequality for African-Americans.  In addition to income inequality and corporate power, Occupy Harlem will bring into dialogue contemporary humanitarian issues in Africa as well as local issues of discrimination such as the “Stop and Frisk” policy that deeply concerns the Harlem community.

Beyond exercising the rights of free speech and organization through Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Harlem, it is imperative to break the cycle of inequality by providing mentoring programs for the inner city’s youth.  Especially important are the programs that work to build entrepreneurial skills among disconnected youth.

As young community members gain a foothold by building their own successful businesses, they foster employment in the community, provide a stable local source of income for community members, and become role models themselves, all the while, working toward bridging the overwhelming inequality gap with which we are so occupied today.

As the occupiers in Zuccotti Park remind us, it is the younger generation that must stand up and demand change, because they are the ones who stand to benefit most from a more just, less impoverished society.  Whether through education, entrepreneurship or social action, the city’s youth must step up and work together to gain their foothold in society!

To learn more about Re:LIFE’s upcoming event in Harlem: Click EMPOWER’D

 
 By Amy Richards
Re:LIFE Inc Writer
Related articles

3 Comments

Filed under Education, Entrepreneurship, Minority Issues, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Criminal Justice Inequality in America: The Destruction of the African American Male

Crime has fallen, but incarcerations across the country still soar, making imprisonment for young African American men a fact of life.  As Harvard Sociologist Bruce Western suggests, societal inequalities generally seem to us natural, legitimate or fixed.  Much of the inequality relies on our society’s perception of young African American male high school dropouts as a problematic societal sub-group.  This perception is perhaps the primary obstacle in addressing inequality in the United States: our complacency with it.
Western suggests that we are living in an era of mass imprisonment that has transformed a generation of young black men who make up the mainstay of the permanently disadvantaged population in American society.  The effect of imprisonment on social and economic inequality demands our immediate attention.
Only 0.1% of the population in Western Europe is incarcerated.  In the U.S., about 700 per 100,000 people are in jail, an entire order of magnitude greater than that of Europe’s population.  From the 1920’s through most of 20th century, imprisonment in the U.S. was relatively stable, and comparable Western Europe’s rates today.  However, from the mid-70’s on, the penal system grew stricter and the threshold for imprisonment was lowered: about 7 million people have since been brought under police supervision.
As large as these figures are, the volume of prisoners is not the most telling statistic.  Instead, we must look more closely incarceration rates for particular sub-groups that include race and educational background.  In the past decade, one third of all young black men who were also high school dropouts, were behind bars, a statistic hugely inconsistent with the rest of society.  In 1999, 41 percent of all black male high school dropouts aged 22-30 were in prison or jail.  In fact, prison time is a more common transition stage for young black males today than college.  Nothing distinguishes African Americans from whites like the difference in rates of incarceration (about 8 to 1).

Prison confers an enduring status that causes diminished opportunities for those who are previously incarcerated.  One effect of the overwhelming rate of incarceration on society is increased inequality of opportunities for prisoners when they leave, both in pay and employment in general.  Incarceration may reduce human capital (lost work experience, diminished skills), erode social ties/relationships to legitimate employment and confer a stigma that repels employers (civil disabilities too).  Ex-prisoners are then subject to high risk of unemployment, little prospect for wage growth, day labor, few to no benefits and decreased job security.  The stigma with which a convict is forced to live then subjects him to subsistence “at the margins of the labor market… precarious employment in low-wage jobs”.

Perhaps most importantly, however, is the effect that the incarcerated males have on the next generation, on their children, who grow up without father figures, while their fathers wait in jail.  One third of African American youth born in 1990, have experienced the absence of a father who was incarcerated.  Imprisonment has therefore become a normal event for young black men with little schooling.  By sharpening the lines of social exclusion, mass imprisonment has reduced the extent of American citizenship and produced a profound transformation of American race relations in the post-Civil Rights period.  Through its effects on economic status and mobility (and families too), mass incarceration has become self-sustaining.

An entire group of our population has become entrenched in a cycle of poverty and diminished life opportunities at the hands of the penal system.  By maintaining this unforgiving criminal justice system, we effectively perpetuate the marginalized status of an entire population of young black men, a group of men who would otherwise have the chance to act as role models and breadwinners for families and communities.  By diminishing ex-prisoners’ life opportunities, society maintains an underclass that is unable to gain a foothold through a fair paying job, that would allow them to begin on a prosocial life path.  The United States has, in effect, decided that this group does not deserve access to jobs or the other legitimate means by which they might reenter mainstream society.

While the criminal justice system is founded on the ideal of safety and security, it has a latent function as well.  It acts as a means of social control that generates inequality, while essentially doing away with what many view as a potentially problematic group of idle young, African American males.  When such a huge disparity exists between the actual trends in crime and the soaring incarceration rates, it is obvious that the criminal justice system no longer acts solely in the name of public safety.

*Statistics in this article are based on a 2009 lecture given by Harvard Sociologist Bruce Western at Villanova University

 
By
Amy Richards, BA
Re:LIFE Inc Blogger

1 Comment

Filed under Global Youth, Minority Issues, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School Part I

In diverse cities like New York there is a greater chance that older immigrant youth, without the time to learn and the ability to speak fluent English, will drop out of high school. Also, discrimination; social and geographic isolation; little or no work experience; and lower levels of English proficiency make it even more difficult for older immigrant youth to find employment—thus resulting in disconnection. Immigrants comprise 30% of high school drop-outs in the Unites States. In Canada—the location of the Pathways to Success: Immigrant Youth at High School research project—studies on immigrant youth show that alarmingly high numbers, 46% to 74% in some areas, do not complete high school.

The Pathways to Success research project was a partnership between the Center for Research and Education in Human Services (CREHS) and Wilfrid Laurier University and was conducted in 2006. The Waterloo region of Canada was used as a case study to explore factors that can maximize social and academic accomplishment in immigrant youth attending high school. The project builds on past research by providing in-depth insights into the immigrant youth experience in high school—their challenges, desires, and attitudes to their situation— in order to offer concrete “pathways of success” rooted in the experiences of the immigrant students themselves. The study was centered on youth aged 16 to 20 who had been living in Canada at most five years. The surveyed students where from four ethno-cultural backgrounds: Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan; Northeast Africa; Spanish-speaking Latin America; and the former Yugoslavia.

The project emerged from the increasing concerns about the standing of immigrant youth when they arrive in Canada because the drop-out rates have created challenges for school boards, educators, and communities. Waterloo was an ideal location because it is a mid-sized urban community with a high immigrant population. The researchers’ hope is that their work can be applicable to other communities.

Collecting Data

The questions that guided this study were:

  1. What factors help and hinder positive social and academic outcomes for immigrant youth in high school?
    • What enables them to succeed in school?
    • What prevents them from succeeding in school?
    • What contributes to the desire to either stay in school or leave?
  2. What are the current promising practices or success stories?
  3. What role should peers, families, educational institutions, and the community-at-large play in facilitating positive academic and social outcomes for immigrant youth in school?
  4. What policy instruments and program models within the school system would maximize positive academic and social outcomes for immigrant youth in school?

Methods of gathering information:

  1. Ten key informant interviews with school board trustees/senior administrators, student leaders, parents serving on the Parent Council, ESL teacher, and other community leaders: The purpose of these interviews was to address the guiding questions from different perspectives.
  2. Eight focus groups with immigrant youth, parents of the immigrant youth, and high school teachers: The information gathered in the key informant interviews helped to frame further questions to ask the focus group participants.
  3. Ten in-depth individual interviews with immigrant youth.
  4. A community forum attended by approximately 160 participants including youth, teachers, service providers, government representatives, families, and other interested citizens: The purpose of this was to present the study’s findings and to mobilize the community in the development of a set of strategies to ensure greater success of immigrant youth in high schools.

Research Findings

The results of this study were organized under sections that emerged from the data: the first impression immigrant youth have once arriving in Canada; what enables immigrant youth to have positive experiences in school; and what factors hinder positive experiences.

1. First Impressions

In general, youth and parents both spoke of the opportunities available in Canada, as well as the challenges and stresses related to adapting to a new home. In regard to the school system, some immigrant youth spoke positively about their first impressions and experiences of high school. For them, high school offered new benefits and opportunities not available in their native countries (e.g., more freedoms, better preparation for post-secondary education). Yet other youth also described their first experience of high school as a time of intense confusion and disorientation. This was especially the case for youth who struggled with English when they first arrived.

2. What Enables Positive Outcomes

The enabling factors are organized under three main categories: individual and family level, institutional level and community level. The individual and family level included self-motivation, family support, peer support, and friendships. The institutional level included supportive teachers and principals, consistent and quality education, and specific school, or school-community support systems. On the community level, enabling factors included community support services.

3. What Hinders Positive Outcomes

There are three main categories: individual and family level, institutional level, and socio-political level. Although presented as individual factors, quite often participants reported that a combination of factors led to negative outcomes for youth in high school. On the individual level, the hindering factors were difficulties fitting in to high school culture; the trauma and stress of escaping from war or violence in their native countries; their parents’ unemployment; and parent-child role reversal. The institutional level included unwelcoming school culture and climate; inadequate resources and support systems in school; and difficulties with the school system and meeting academic requirements. The socio-economic level included gaps in education and lack of fluency in English; and teasing and bullying from their peers.

With all this information, the researchers were able to devise a set of recommendations to improve the immigrant experience in high school and possibly reduce drop-out rates.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/3c7vv23

by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology

1 Comment

Filed under Global Youth, Youth, Youth Empowerment

Bringing Together Diverse Methods of Re-engagement: The HEROES Model Part II

As previously mentioned, the five programs explored by the Youth Adult Capacity Initiative (case studies) are programs located in neighborhoods that are densely populated with disconnected youth. Even though they were successful in different areas of youth development, their impact could easily be drowned in these same communities if they are not able to effectively influence a larger percentage of the demographic in order to effect visible change. These programs and better ones should be replicated and funded, to exponentially increase impact. As such, the HEROES (Heritage, Education, Relationship, Opportunity, Entrepreneurship and Sports) model is a hybrid of these programs, inter-networked with the Liberty-LEADS model for catering to at-risk youth, through consistent positive engagement and support. In developing this model, the founders of Re:LIFE sought for successful strategies and plans that have worked at different programs, and through personal experience dealing with this population. This model was applied in the development of the Re:LIFE Reengagement Program for Disconnected Youth.

Understanding the HEROES Model is important to effectively implementing it:

Heritage: For many immigrants, who cannot communicate effectively in English, it is important to teach the appreciation of cultures and peoples. This creates a sense of community among participants, which could help retention rates, as well as enthusiasm to learn about other cultures and English language in order to succeed educationally and otherwise. One’s knowledge of their heritage has the ability to empower them, build confidence and pride, and excite learning. In order to successfully impact youth, it is imperative that they learn about their cultures, history, experiences and about heroes of their heritage who have or share similar journeys in achieving success.

Education: This is one of the most important solutions to curbing disconnection. As with the Liberty LEADS program, positively engaging disconnected youth six times a week, will keep them busy, expand their horizons and opportunities, as well as reduce crimes associated with being idle. This was constantly explored throughout all five case studies, and plays a crucial role in shaping policies affecting disconnected youth. However, many of these studies only engaged youth for three to five hours per day and three to four times a week. This still leaves room for a relapse back into activities and environments that encourage disconnection and crime. It is therefore necessary to explore and constantly implement new educational strategies that engage youth over longer periods of time during the day and week, with an incentive or rewards approach, that prove successful. This will involve understanding their interests, talents, skills and preferences, (e.g. music, dance, theater, spoken word/rap, photography etc.) and channeling them into their daily/weekly activities.

Relationships: As seen from the challenges of the explored programs, providing just GED and job readiness programs are not sufficient to thwart the effects of disconnection. One has to fully understand youth in order to effectively serve them. This involves, building a “relationship of trust” through counseling, one-on-one mentoring and creating an environment of trust to help foster success. Also healthy relationships teach these youth how to interact with other people, which is necessary for successful transition into society. As such, it is gainful to incorporate relationship-based classes like conflict resolution in the community, constructive debate and communication, anti-violence, community leadership and peer-mentoring classes. These classes could be offered in partnership with higher institutions to help students acquire certificates or diplomas as they go through the program.

Opportunity: It is necessary to create job opportunities for disconnected youth to help motivate them out of disconnection. This involves job training that could lead to career jobs, programs and incentives that would motivate students to explore different skills, talents and services that might enhance their opportunities. Rewarded internships, apprenticeship, vocational training and work-study programs must be part of a youth development program to help encourage and motivate youth in transitioning. As previously said, programs that involve the acquisition of certificates and diplomas for completed courses will actually make participants more marketable as they pass through the program.

Entrepreneurship: As an advocate of youth Entrepreneurship, I have learned that it is important that we teach youth how to provide for themselves through their interests, talents and skills they may possess. One of the major concerns for disconnected youth is earning a wage or making money. As such, teaching and coaching them to monetize ideas that interest them will help empower them, while encouraging them to diligently pursue other goals like education. There are several disconnected male and female youth involved in illegal business dealings, which if guided and taught how to, could create legitimate businesses that would provide for them and their families.

Sports: Physical fitness and nutritional health is very crucial in helping curb disconnection because most jobs that do not require four year degrees like construction, healthcare and transportation would require youth to be fit and in good health. As such, an effective program should incorporate nutrition and fitness training in its curriculum.

HEROES is a model that will impact youth positively and help curb disconnection because it is a hybrid of techniques that have worked in different programs, which are currently impacting minority, disconnected youth lives. The Re:LIFE Reengagement Program is one that ideally employs the HEROES model of success. With the proper funding and acquisition of the required materials, Re:LIFE will be able to positively affect the lives of disconnected youth in NYC and help revolutionize the socio-economic state of high-poverty communities like Harlem.

2 Comments

Filed under Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, www.relifeinc.org, Youth, Youth Empowerment

Bringing Together Diverse Methods of Re-engagement: The HEROES Model Part I

There are a number of nonprofit and community organizations that provide different services aimed at empowering youth—from health, to education, to criminal justice, etc. Some of these organizations offer more than one service and have succeeded in impacting youth more effectively than others. In order to successfully resolve the problem of youth disconnection, it is important that effective programs be identified and supported. This will help allocate funding more efficiently as well as increase the impact of these programs. The Young Adult Capacity Initiative (YACI) conducted case studies a few years ago to explore the effectiveness of five programs located in New York City neighborhoods that are densely populated with disconnected youth. Re:LIFE is based upon the HEROES model of disconnection—a unique model that incorporates the findings of these studies by merging successful tactics of other youth reconnection programs and avoiding their mistakes.

The Youth Development Institute (YDI) funded five community-based agencies in NYC’s highly concentrated “disconnected youth” neighborhoods to create programs that would address the needs of this demographic. YDI saw the need for programs that would assist young adults in finishing their education, learning basic occupational skills, finding jobs and learning the skills and attitudes necessary to keep the job. In addition, they included that these programs needed to provide a range of services beyond GED classes and help with resume writing and interview skills. The five programs established by YDI included Cypress Hills Youth LEAD, East Side House Settlement, El Camino, Sesame Flyers International, and New Heights Neighborhood Center. These were the programs YACI examined in their case studies.

Outtakes From the Case Studies:

Case 1 (Brooklyn) Cypress Hills Youth LEAD (Learning, Educating others, and Achieving Dreams) Program:

This was an initiative within the Cypress Hills Local Development Corporation (CHLDC) in East New York. East New York is in eastern Brooklyn, a part of Brooklyn plagued with high crime rates and violence, high disconnection rates, poverty and low educational attainment. The Cypress Hill LEAD Program initially provided GED preparation classes, weekly employment workshops and social events. It later added a job readiness workshop and counseling aspects of youth development. The main challenge of the Youth LEAD program as indicated by its operators was addressing the high level of support needed by their disconnected youth population. According to some of the staff, they believed that they were only “scratching the surface” of what services they needed to offer. Of the 430 young adults who enrolled in the program since its inception in 2002, 87 registered for the GED, 75 took the exam, 45 received their GEDs and 95 have obtained a job. While there has been some success to the program, its success rate could be better.

Case 2 (Bronx) East Side House Settlement (ESHS):

This was the second study, located in Mott Haven, the Nation’s poorest Congressional District. Its population has very high unemployment rates, low graduation rates and very high disconnection rates. The emphasis of the program at East Side House was on relationship building with youths and retention strategies.ESHS incorporated activities like having students call fellow absent classmates, changing their orientation process, providing counseling and making referrals to other programs if needed as techniques to improve student retention and success rates. Their major challenge was in understanding the needs of this demographic in order to effectively support them. Of 262 students in 2005, 37 took the GED test and passed, 33 obtained jobs. Once again, 37 out of 262 is a low percent success rate.

Case 3 (Harlem – Upper Manhattan) El Camino (the Path):

El Camino was a program at The Harlem’s Children Zone (HCZ) in Central Harlem. Central Harlem is one of New York City’s most poor neighborhoods, with a child poverty rate of 39 percent and plagued with several social ills like poor housing, domestic violence, child abuse, failing educational standards etc. Regular attendance to the GED program was a major problem for this program. Being that its disconnected youth had been out of school for longer periods of time, it affected their attendance rates. Also, having an open policy system of admittance made it difficult to effectively cater to students at a consistent rate and diluted the educational effect of the system. Even though HCZ has been nationally honored for being one of the country’s “most effective and innovative community-building and youth development organizations”, and has achieved great success with in-school youth, the director of the program admitted that their original projected outcomes for the program were entirely unrealistic and did not reflect the reality of what it means to work with this population.

Case 4 (Brooklyn) Sesame Flyers International (SFI):

SFI is a nonprofit organization that operates various cultural, recreational and educational youth development programs in and around the Greater East Flatbush community in Brooklyn. It was founded by Caribbean immigrants to offer their children a place and an opportunity to learn about their cultural heritage. The program instituted at SFI was tagged “Get R.I.C.H”, (meaning Reaching Individuals to Change Humanity). The goal of the Get RICH program was to expose youth to different employment skill-building workshops and one-on-one employment counseling. Furthermore, SFI provided programs such as social and recreational activities (basketball and dance), GED classes, a youth employment program, counseling by case workers and peer support. They met three hours a day, four days a week. During these four days, participants got to meet with staff members once a week. They were trained in job readiness skills, resume building, job search skills, interviewing techniques and computer training. They also instituted a Career Make Over cycle of thirteen weeks—six weeks of training and seven weeks of job searching.

According to SFI, their biggest challenge was defining their target population for the Employment Program because according to them, “there were many subgroups embedded within the disconnected youth group”. The Get R.I.C.H program had only delivered services to 33 youth after the completion of their second Career Make Over cycles. They averaged 8 students per cycle per location, for which success data was not released.

Case 5 (Washington Heights – Upper Manhattan) New Heights Neighborhood Center (NHNC):

NHNC is located in Washington Heights/ Inwood section of upper Manhattan, and has the largest enclave of Dominican immigrants in New York City.The Washington Heights region of upper Manhattan houses a community also plagued with high disconnection rates, unemployment and gang violence. The goal of NHNC was to establish a working relationship between disconnected youth and local businesses in the area. It’s main challenge as it identified was understaffing, and the return of students who were seeking educational, instead of employment goals.

Unfortunately, while this organization succeeded in establishing relationships with local organizations for the benefit of their youth, it seemed to be more centered on providing menial jobs and employment for students, instead striving to educate them as well. Sometimes there is an underlying belief that the youths are not really “cut-out” for education, so instead of “wasting time” trying to persuade or encourage them, finding them menial jobs is deemed a better route to results. As reported by YACI, of 487 students served by the end of 2005, 167 obtained jobs, 207 enrolled in a GED program, and only 28 passed the GED exam. While any success is good, the educational component of this program was dismal, and calls into question the long-term benefits of the program.

The HEROES model for success stands for Heritage, Education, Relationship, Opportunity, Entrepreneurship and Sports. One problem of the five case studies and their results was the fact that most of the programs dealt with one or at most three aspects of the HEROES model. This in turn translated to referrals (if done at all) to other programs. The negative implication of this is that youth might get discouraged if the services at the referred program fall short of warming or effective. Another problem was the lack of an effective tracking method. The inability to track students, who even though they obtain their GED might need help obtaining work or applying to college, dilutes the effort invested in helping those youths in the first place.

Also, the pressure to raise adequate funds by many of these organizations resulted in a redirection of focus for many of them. In a bid to stay afloat financially, programs gradually start to treat participants as statistics/data necessary for fundraising, instead of individuals with colluded problems in need of help. This problem is the main reason why many students are increasingly being cared for at a minimal rate. The provision of GED classes and some job readiness program have become the threshold for measuring success of disconnected youth services, which unfortunately have done little to resolve this enormous and growing problem.  This is why the implementation and duplication of the HEROES model cannot be over-emphasized.

2 Comments

Filed under Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Framework for Positive Youth Development: Every Child Requires These FIVE Promises

The ‘framework for positive youth development’ outlines the support that young people need in order to transition successfully into adulthood. It emphasizes the necessity of focusing on youths’ strengths, identifying their weaknesses and minimizing their risk factors. Gallup Student Poll studies suggest that majority of the youth in the United States are not hopeful, engaged and thriving in their personal and educational/occupational lives—in fact, only four out of ten are succeeding in these areas. Lawmakers tend to focus on the risk factors or negative behaviors of youth, such as trying to find ways to reduce teenage pregnancy or high school drop-out rates. Just as reinforcement is proven to be more effective than punishment when trying to change someone’s behavior, positive youth development is a better tool for trying to fix these problems. It emphasizes the support and services that must be available to help youth in their various stages of development.

The framework, developed by America’s Promise Alliance, circles around the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of young people. It states that youth need FIVE key support systems throughout their development:

Caring Adults: This Promise discusses the importance of concerned adults in young peoples’ lives. These adults can be in their families, from their schools, or members of their communities. Those who are able to develop secure relationships with their parents and formal and informal relationships with adults such as mentors, coaches, and youth volunteers have a great advantage. However, it seems that 30% of teenagers and 20% of younger children do not have quality relationships with their parents and only 8% of youth ages six to seventeen have a formal mentor. Youths themselves realize the importance of having adults in their lives—40% of young people ages 8 to 21 do wish they had these adult figures which they could turn to for help.

Safe Places: The second Promise encompasses the importance of physical and emotional security. From their homes, to schools, to neighborhoods, youth need safe places in order to develop. Sadly, only 37% have this luxury. These places must also engage them actively and constructively—there should be balance of structured and unstructured activities. Only four in ten young people participate in activities that teach needed skills, such as how to form lasting relationships with others and how to make big decisions. A great majority of them say that they sometimes (or never) feel safe in their schools or communities.

Healthy Start to Development: This Promise deals with the fact that youth need a healthy start to their development, including healthy bodies, minds, and habits. This can be ensured through regular checkups with a doctor, good nutrition and exercise, healthy skills and knowledge, and good role models. Although Americans have increased their awareness in health especially by recognizing the dangers of obesity, studies still show that only 43% of our young people are experiencing this Promise. 65% of them actually said that they wish they knew more stores and restaurants that sold healthy foods and drinks.

Effective Education: This Promise is about the importance of an effective education. Intellectual stimulation is an important aspect for youth as they grow, and for the future, when one must secure a job. In today’s competitive global economy, education is more important than ever. It results from having quality learning environments, challenging expectations and consistent guidance. More than 60% of youth ages ten to twenty-one believe that their schools should give them more preparation for the real world.

Opportunities to Help Others: The last Promise deals with opportunities to help others. Youth want to get involved in their communities, but many lack meaningful opportunities to contribute. America’s Promise Alliance states that “Knowing how to make a difference comes from having models of caring behavior, awareness of the needs of others, a sense of personal responsibility to contribute to the larger society, and opportunities for volunteering, leadership and service.”

These are known as the “Five Promises”. America’s Promise Alliance noticed that “Children who receive at least four of the Five Promises are much more likely than those who experience only one or zero Promises to succeed academically, socially and civically. They are more likely to avoid violence, contribute to their communities and achieve academic excellence in school. Receiving at least four of the Five Promises also appears to mitigate gaps across racial and economic boundaries.”

States are now beginning to use this framework to develop policies and programs to help youth prepare for college, work and life. Re:LIFE Inc. adopts these Promises and endeavor to ensure that the Re:LIFE Team and all its programs effectively employ them. We are a number of caring adults dedicated to helping youth succeed. We provide positive learning environments and effective educational programs, which include internship opportunities for youth to contribute to their communities by applying what they have learned. All youth-based institutions in the U.S. should try to adhere to the framework for positive youth development. As the saying goes, “Children are the future”, and by implementing these ideas we invest and develop the future of our nation as well.

Source
http://www.ncsl.org/?tabid=16375#frameworks
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology
Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

2 Comments

Filed under Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment

Re:LIFE’s ArtLIFE Program: Empowering Youth through Art Education

Du bleu dans vos coeurs....

Image by ImAges ImprObables via Flickr (Un Peu d'amour! means 'a little love')

“Re:LIFE’s programs are all aimed at reinventing today’s youth. Re:LIFE’s programs are determined to educate, equip, encourage, cultivate and motivate youth to become entrepreneurs in diverse fields that will spur economic growth, reduce unemployment, and increase fiscal responsibility in our communities.
The Reengagement Program is Re:LIFE’s Premier endeavor. It is designed to have an entrepreneurial focus, which will come alongside educational, career and leadership preparations in the five different areas of concentration. The Reengagement program spans an intensive 12- 24 month timeline. This time frame is broken down into a Mandatory Intensive 12-month training session, and Voluntary Extensive job placement/ fiscal responsibility session.” – http://www.relifeinc.org/reengagement.html

The Re:LIFE Reengagement Program for disconnected male youth incorporates five concentration areas with each student being assigned to his preferred area of concentration—ArtLIFE, FitLIFE, ServeLIFE, TechLIFE and BizLIFE. Although Re:LIFE Inc is an entrepreneurship-centered program, it acknowledges the necessities of training in other areas, especially as desired by the participant. Those in the Arts, for example, plan and execute a showcase of talents of which potential talent scouts will select candidates they hope to sponsor. Hence, the showcase serves as an audition for the candidates.
Some people do not readily see art as a focus from which one can pursue a career or learn valuable life skills. Unfortunately, some schools which are facing budgets cuts accommodate these changes by decreasing the number of art programs. Yet, the benefits of training and education in the arts can be found in all aspects of life and as such, art education should be preserved.

The arts are an important part of every youth’s education. Similar to English, Math, Science and other core subjects, the Arts also contains challenging subject areas that contain rigorous content and standards of achievement. Making art or simply experiencing it will help youth grow intellectually, socially, and emotionally. It can also be extremely beneficial for economically disadvantaged youth and those who are at risk of not succeeding in school. As stated by Eric Cooper, president of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, “Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences”. Research studies depict a strong correlation between learning in the arts and acquiring the fundamental cognitive skills and capacities used to master other core subjects.
Obviously art education develops creativity within youth. Let’s examine how it builds other aspects of the personality:

Critical Thinking and Communication Skills: Youth who study art are made to interpret and draw conclusions from the material. This fosters critical thinking by encouraging them to think outside the box and expand their mind. They learn to question things by participating in the arts. They also learn to problem solve and convey their thoughts and ideas effectively. Studies have actually shown that exposing youth to art promotes brain activity.

Emotional Development: The practice of art builds self-esteem, discipline, and maturity. For example, “After drawing a sketch, if a child does not like the final outcome, he erases and re-draws certain portions. Thus, he learns “trial and error” through art and uses the same in real life situations.” It also improves observational skills because one learns to take notice of small details and this will allow youth to appreciate even the smallest things in life. Lastly, they are exposed to different ides of beauty and perceptions of the world and thus, they develop a mind more open to the experiences and people they might come across in the future.

Interpersonal Skills: Art allows youth to develop a better understanding of human nature. They learn to see the world from other people’s points of view and as a consequence they are more willing to respect the thoughts and feelings of others.

Not only are the points mentioned above important skills necessary for youth development, they are also attributes any employer would want in an employee. And if one is particularly gifted in a field of art, this can open the door to a lucrative profession in the arts, thus increasing youth innovation and employment.

The subdivisions of Re:LIFE’s ArtLIFE include music, theater, dance, creative writing, painting/mosaic, and interior/exterior design. Youth that choose to participate in this area of concentration undergo basic, intermediate, and advanced training in their particular field and are then allowed to showcase their developed skills and talents. Art is an indispensable subject that would benefit anybody, regardless of artistic inclination.

Sources:
http://www2.ed.gov/teachers/how/tools/initiative/updates/040826.html
http://www.buzzle.com/articles/importance-of-art-education.html
 
by Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
Pace University
B.A. Applied Psychology
Edited by Chike Ukaegbu

2 Comments

Filed under Education, Entrepreneurship, Global Youth, Minority Issues, Re:LIFE Inc, ReLIFE, Youth, Youth Development, Youth Empowerment