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Practise development

The youth are the future of the nation. This is a sentiment echoed in every institution, communal gathering, literature or participative forum that involves the subject of the youth. They all agree that the youth must be developed into responsible members of the society that will in the future take the reigns of leadership and steer the country, community and families in the manner appropriate. Therefore, there is a need for them to be positively developed. So what is youth development’s definition?

Youth development is the encouragement and nurturing of the potential of young people to actively participate in shaping their lives positively so as to overcome hurdles and difficulties inherent within their environment: both social and physical. This allows them to participate in a positive manner in the community in future and thus carry out their lives responsibly. This responsibility is shown toward their work (livelihood), country and societal environment (Johanna,).

As shown from the definition, the youth are encouraged to participate in their own nurturing process, and the aim is to make them socially useful. Youth development occurs in models of various kinds. Each sector of the various communities try their own model of approach that they see fit to achieve the goal of positively impacting the youth e. g. sporting, religious and education. However, most of the previous models focus on the youth as social problems in need of fixing. This will therefore determine the method of approach used as a curative method rather than as an empowering approach.

This is not successful. As Lerna (et. al. ) remarks, the society’s problem approach leads to the use of wrong parameters in the measuring of the success of an approach. This is where positive youth development comes into the picture. Positive youth development is an approach that focuses on developing the youth by strengthening their positive aspects as opposed to actively focusing on curing their negative tendencies (Damon, 2004). This is said to happen when the youth is engaged as an active participant by a suitable environment for their development.

The interaction with his or her environment in a healthy manner produces a result described by the six C’s of positive development: competence in their daily activities, confidence, connection with the others socially, character, caring, and more recently put forward is contribution to the society (Child psycho, 905). All in all the result is better health, socially and mentally. However, the truth is that we still measure the success of a model by how much the negative factors have reduced, not how much the positive factors have increased. The HEART project is testament to this.

Carried out in Oklahoma, this project aimed to decrease the rate of teenage pregnancies by focusing on strengthening “youth assets” such as parent-child interaction and role modeling. The positive approach still aimed to eliminate a negative attribute. Though this is good, the goal should be to look at the positive values gained from the exercise and use this as the benchmark of progress. This is what should define the success or failure of the model (Lerner et al, 22). This should not dismiss the success of the method. Positive youth development was birthed from a dissatisfaction brought about by the previous models in place.

As stated above, the models were curative in nature and focused on the negatives. This portrayal of youth as trouble makers and time bombs ticking away contributed to the failure of previous models. In my opinion, the models may have caused the youth to take a rebellious front due to the negative labels being used on them. Such methods include the use “deficit” education where negative values are condemned rather than strengthening positive values. This led to the development of the positive development methods. By focusing on the strengths and re-enforcing them, the method has gained a lot of success.

This is witnessed by the HEART project which saw the youth being actively involved in their own training to reduce their risky sexual behavior. The results were much more far reaching than just reducing risky sexual behavior. In one instance, by allowing the youth to participate in their development, the youth organized a day long interaction with parents and even produced a document with suggested ways forward. This gives them more skills and exposure than previous methods would have allowed (. However, much more needs to be done to eliminate the deficit mentality as it is deeply ingrained in our thinking system (Lerner et al, 19-23).

In my opinion, this method of development is good if conducted in its ideal form. This would include revising of existing structures and mentalities within both government and society to see the youth as a potential group rather than a problem. The strength of this system comes in the focusing on youth as a positive group. This is a huge motivator to change as it satisfies the need to be recognized. The system, however, does not take into consideration the fact that some youth will not be sufficiently guided by merely looking at them in positive light and encouraging them to change.

It also assumes that the environment can be free on negative influence, an assumption that is overstretched. Unless the youth in question can be made to admire the advantages of positive living, then the system cannot work. In conclusion, the system in my opinion will work on a vast majority and is a very big step in the right direction. The other model in focus is youth organization. Youth organizations are bodies that are aimed at serving the youth’s interest. They can be local spanning a community group within a given location to international movements. An example of an international youth organization would be the scout’s movement.

Youth organizations observe the development and nurturing of the youth at the heart of the organization’s operations. They typically involve the youth in activities that are meant to achieve this goal. The youth organizations are of many types, all with as many sub-goals. There are community youth groups that are aimed at achieving better living standards, others are aimed at improving social relations in the community while others still aim at improving the education standards. All the same the overall aim is the same: to help the individual to become a better person.

Typically, there is the involvement of guidance from a senior person, a youth worker, parent or someone higher in age and seniority. This is evident in societies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, whose mentorship and fun-filled activity programs have impacted the society in a big way. They have led to reduced school drop out, better family interactions and other socially positive steps have been seen. If they provide any standard of the achievements of youth organizations then there is a lot to be gained (Big brothers Big sisters, 2009). Youth organizations have several benefits they offer to the individual and to the society at large.

The organization offers a platform for active participation in societal change. This allows the youth to handle more responsibility and become more proficient in management, useful now and in the future. The youth, when actively engaged have enough energy and creativity to see new and innovative methods of solving societal problems. This is good for both now and future when they become policy makers and influences in the society. Also, since these organizations have a senior person, the youth are able to get mentored in the various ways they need (Barnett and Brenan, 2008).

The impact of these organizations has been significant. In their book Trends in Youth Development, Peter and Karen cite a case study of a public housing settlement in which there was a Boy’s and Girl’s alcohol and drug abuse prevention program. They stated that there was a significant drop in drug abuse in the youth and more surprisingly even the adult community. This is an example of how the community experiences change when it engages its youth. Other examples include how youth in third world countries join together in community youth groups to save their communities from poverty.

By coming together in a group, these youth are able to pool their resources, however meager, and achieve something beneficial (UN, 2009). They enable the youth to experience the power of synergy (Benson and Pittman, 138, 2001). In my assessment, youth organizations play a pivotal role in both the local and international society. They have caused positive changes in the society in various levels and ways. Through involving the youth in fun and creative ways they are able to stir up the young mind to be useful in society. They also have the advantage of creating synergy by accumulating numbers for various causes.

The crowd effect is especially useful for this age group as they want to identify with a group. However, youth organizations have their flip side. They can turn into very radical political tools if not managed in a socially responsible way. It is one thing to be civically dutiful and it is another to be politically dangerous. The Hitler Youth are a historical reminder of such danger. They are one of the reasons that Hitler was able to ascend to power and provided a channel for his propaganda. This has been repeated time and time again in various countries.

That said, the youth have also been at the forefront of political reforms in countries where dictatorship has been evident e. g. China (Spartacus, 2009). The other weakness with youth organizations is their dependency on adult guidance. In my opinion there lies a latent danger of the adult imposing his or her ideas on the youth instead of allowing them to be free-thinkers and make their own decisions. The adult can also channel information or values that are wrong and misleading. If this happens, the end result is counter-productive. Therefore the adult guidance in use should be certified to be positive.

In summary, youth development is an area of great importance. Since this is an area of special interest, there should be more efforts in this field. The two models described above are very good, only if used appropriately.


Big Brothers Big Sisters (n. d. ) untitled. Sourced from http://parentingteens. about. com/gi/dynamic/offsite. htm? zi=1/XJ/Ya&sdn=parentingteens&cdn=parenting&tm=121&gps=148_169_796_431&f=00&tt=14&bt=1&bts=1&zu=http%3A//www. bbbsa. org/ on 6th April, 2009. Brennan M A. and Barnett V. Rosemary (2008). Involving Youth in the Development Process. Sourced from http://edis. ifas. ufl. edu/FY846 on 6th April, 2009.

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