They groan when told its bedtime, slam doors when mom says “no,” argue when someone disagrees with their ideas, and fight strongly for what they believe in. I think most of us can agree on the fact that generally youth are stubborn. Some are more likely to stir up tension than comply nicely with what is being asked or even given to them—a natural rebellion that accompanies this period in life. Does this generalization apply, however, to youth that do not have the luxury of having two caring parents, a home to live in, or even something to fight for. A study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy found that youth usually perceive community outreach workers positively, whether or not they have personally worked with one.
Community outreach workers are people who try to prevent conflict among the members of the community and, in some circumstances, provide necessary services to individuals such as housing, health care, and job training. Community outreach programs exist in all of the United States, especially concentrated in urban cities. In most cases they serve as a strategy to connect at-risk youth to beneficial services and prevent gang-related violence.
Re:LIFE Inc., for example, is a community-based youth development organization established in Harlem. It focuses on the provision of the needed training, opportunities, motivation and relevant life skills necessary for the proper grooming of educationally, socially and fiscally responsible youth in New York City. It is not uncommon for people to be reluctant to seek help when they find themselves in an uncomfortable, and sometimes perceived as embarrassing, situation such as unemployment. The same can be said of young people due to their stubborn tendencies. Before this study, little was known about how these programs and workers are actually perceived by youth within the communities they serve, especially those who have not worked with them personally.
Researchers surveyed 159 individuals ages 13 to 23 in Lowell, Massachusetts to evaluate their perceptions of local community outreach workers. The workers were from an organization called The United Teen Equality Center (UTEC). It was established in 1999 in response to local gang violence. Sixty-three percent of the survey’s participants indicated that they know first-hand of fights which the workers intervened in or prevented. Eighty-two percent of the respondents who participated in the worker-led mediation activities said their conflicts had successfully been resolved. Keshia Pollack, an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Health Policy and Management, stated that “even youth who haven’t directly benefited from working one-on-one with street outreach workers are telling us their presence makes their own community a better place.”
The participants were also asked about their employment, education, and health care needs. Approximately sixty percent responded that they needed assistance finding and securing a job; one-third required help with writing a resume; and over fifty percent stated that they could not have connected with the services they needed without the help of the outreach workers. “Young people have needs beyond conflict resolution strategies, and it is important that communities consider this point when thinking about how best to keep their young people moving in the right direction. At the end of the day, teens know that the factors necessary for a successful transition to adulthood include education, employment, and health care,” said researcher Shannon Frattaroli.
Regardless of their rebellious tendencies, youth understand the importance of community outreach programs and gravitate towards them. Support for these workers and programs should definitely be encouraged because our communities are a better place as a result of their work.Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101208125807.htm Betty Diop (Re:LIFE Writer/Columnist)
B.A. Applied Psychology
Edited by Chike Ukaegbu