YDS Invasion

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Why YDS?

The time is right for a “youth-driven” model. Many settings find it difficult to recruit and retain youth once they enter middle and high school. While older youth clearly benefit from participation in afterschool initiatives, practitioners and program DSC_1552developers need innovative strategies to attract and keep older youth engaged. YDS focuses on letting youth drive their learning and involvement – by focusing on their interests, ideas and passions – and letting them run their own programs, with the support of adult partners. Additionally, the YDS model provides genuine workforce gains by helping to build youths’ 21st Century Skills.

The YDS process

The YDS process involves a team of youth leaders or emerging leaders alongside their adult advisor(s).The team participates in a series of training and coaching events that help support the group in their goal of youth leadership.

What YDS can do for you…

in schools

Even in the nation’s highest functioning high schools, student engagement, school climate and student learning remain challenges facing administrators and teachers. School improvement and change, to be as effective as possible, must have the direct involvement of students. Research demonstrates that effective implementation of school change requires participation and buy-in from all those involved; students and teachers alike.MDE August 2014 Institute 2

But how can schools develop meaningful student engagement and voice while at the same time meeting district, state and national academic requirements? And in addition, deal with the socio-emotional needs faced by a growing number of students.

YDS can help!  Traditionally, schools do not consider students as a source of valuable insight about school problems, and students are not seen as real partners in change initiatives.  Schools place students on the fringe of school change processes, rather than making them central partners, impeding school leaders’ ability to obtain necessary perspectives about school challenges and ultimately design effective change strategies.

Utilizing a YDS framework, high schools have created Student Advisory or Action Councils.  These groups of students represent their peers and help drive projects and initiatives to support positive school climate and school change efforts.  Students have also been involved in higher order roles including school bond development, district consolidation efforts and budget decisions.

In order to help build or enhance a Student Advisory, Neutral Zone provides intensive training and coaching to a group of 10-20 students serving on the council, along with their adult advisors.  Our typical program occurs over a year-long process and helps student/adult teams to:

  1. learn about school reform or improvement efforts
  2. engage students in learning skills and developing strategies to explore and understand school issues
  3. engage school groups in implementing action projects that address issues they’ve identified
  4. develop structures and strategies to create a sustainable council model within the school

in libraries

In many communities, libraries serve as an important hub of activity for children and youth.  Teens are drawn to libraries to access the internet or computers, study, discuss books, socialize, participate in programming, or just hang out.  A 2013 study reported that youth, ages 14–24, make up 25% of all public library users.

But how can libraries best attract and retain older youth? Provide these youth with unique opportunities to grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially?  Develop skills for learning and expression, as well as provide opportunities for 21st century skill building like critical thinking, planning, and communication?DSC_0413

YDS can help!  Programs that successfully support older youth are intentional about creating opportunities for youth voice, engagement and leadership at multiple levels. These programs reflect adolescents’ increased needs for efficacy and responsibility, as well as actively engage youth in both organizational and community leadership.

Utilizing a YDS framework, libraries have created or enhanced a Youth Advisory Council (YAC).  A YAC is a group of teens that represent their peers and can serve in a number of roles including planning library programs and services and leading outreach efforts to promote programs. YAC teens can even serve in higher-order governance roles involving library policies, such as budget decisions and strategic planning.

In order to help build or enhance a YAC, Neutral Zone provides intensive training and coaching to a group of 8-15 teens serving on the YAC, along with their adult advisors.

Our typical program occurs over a year-long process and helps youth/adult teams to:

  1. explore and understand their organizational mission and structure
  2. plan and implement youth-driven, mission-focused projects
  3. establish and sustain advisory council structures
  4. explore ways for the council to be involved in higher-order organizational and governance roles

in community-based youth programs

Out of school time (OST) programs usually consist of programs provided for or delivered to youth.  In many of these programs, young people are engaged in leadership training, and are taught the skills to perform music, create visual arts, write poetry or engage in supplemental academic enrichment.

IMG_0123What would happen if we provided youth the support and opportunity to take a greater leadership role in the creation and running of their own activities within community-based organizations?  How might OST programs be more effective if youth partnered with the adults as co-creators in the process?  What other youth skills could we foster through a different approach to youth engagement in the OST space?

YDS can help!  Neutral Zone has supported community-based OST programs throughout Michigan.  Through a YDS framework, youth have opportunities to plan and lead activities, to establish and run advisory boards, and to be involved in decisions about the physical space, activities offered, field trips, budget, organizational policy and even staff hiring.

In order to help build YDS in an OST space, Neutral Zone provides intensive training and coaching to a leadership team of youth.

Our typical program occurs over a year-long process and helps youth/adult teams to:

  1. help teams explore and understand their organizational mission and structure
  2. plan and implement youth-driven, mission-focused projects
  3. establish sustainable structures for youth voice, like an advisory council
  4. explore ways for youth participants to be involved in higher-order organizational and governance roles

in adolescent health centers

How can adolescent health centers develop meaningful youth voice in order to reach the critical mass of youth who need their services?   It is important to involve youth so that their voices guide the health center’s outreach and approach to teen health care. This is critical as health clinics often deal with sensitive issues.

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YDS can help!  Neutral Zone has worked with health centers, both school and community-based to help them develop authentic opportunities for youth involvement.   Utilizing a YDS framework, health center advisories help conduct outreach to their peers, drive projects and initiatives on health and wellness and even serve in higher order governance roles including participation on the board of directors.

In order to help build or enhance a Health Based Advisory, Neutral Zone provides intensive training and coaching to a group of 10-20 students serving on the council, along with their adult advisors.

Our typical program occurs over a year-long process and helps youth/adult teams to:

  1. explore and understand issues related to health and wellness
  2. plan and implement projects that address these issues
  3. implement structures and processes that provide ongoing youth engagement and advisement in their center’s mission and work