Mentoring

Positive Youth Development

Positive Experiences + Positive Relationships + Positive Environments = Positive Youth Development

Based on the literature, the Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs, a collaboration of 21 federal departments and agencies that support youth, has created the following definition of positive youth development (PYD):

PYD is an intentional, prosocial approach that engages youth within their communities, schools, organizations, peer groups, and families in a manner that is productive and constructive; recognizes, utilizes, and enhances young people’s strengths; and promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, fostering positive relationships, and furnishing the support needed to build on their leadership strengths.

The Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs developed a research agenda focused on positive youth development. Through a collaborative consensus-building process, representatives from federal agencies identified three research domains (conceptual issues, data sources and indicators, and program implementation and effectiveness) and key research questions that could benefit from future research.

PYD has its origins in the field of prevention. In the past, prevention efforts typically focused on single problems before they surfaced in youth, such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse, and juvenile delinquency.

Over time, practitioners, policymakers, funders, and researchers determined that promoting positive asset building and considering young people as resources were critical strategies. As a result, the youth development field began examining the role of resiliency — the protective factors in a young person's environment — and how these factors could influence one's ability to overcome adversity. Those factors included, but were not limited to, family support and monitoring; caring adults; positive peer groups; strong sense of self, self-esteem, and future aspirations; and engagement in school and community activities.

Researchers and practitioners began to report that young people who possess a diverse set of protective factors can, in fact, experience more positive outcomes. These findings encouraged the development of interventions and programs that reduce risks and strengthen protective factors. The programs and interventions are strengthened when they involve and engage youth as equal partners, ultimately providing benefits for both for the program and the involved youth.

Gang Involvement Prevention

Preventing youth involvement in gangs is an important issue. Compared to non-gang members, gang members commit a disproportionate amount of violent crimes and offenses across the country. Gangs and gang involvement result in short- and long-term negative outcomes for gang-involved youth, their friends and families, and the surrounding communities.1 Gangs are typically defined as groups having the following characteristics:

  • Formal organizational structure
  • Identifiable leadership
  • Identified territory
  • Recurrent interaction
  • Involvement in serious or violent behavior2

In an effort to replace older adult gang members who are incarcerated, gangs often try to recruit youth.3 Youth often succumb to these efforts at early ages because of their vulnerability and susceptibility to recruitment tactics.4  As a result, it is necessary to begin prevention efforts at a young age, identify risk and protective factors for gang involvement, and utilize a comprehensive approach that involves multiple sectors and disciplines working together (e.g., justice, education, labor, social services, public health and safety, businesses, philanthropic organizations, faith-based organizations, and other youth, family, and community-serving groups).5

1 Howell, 1998
2 Howell, 1994
3 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), 2011
4 FBI, 2011
5 National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, 2011

Mentoring

Positive youth development research has long demonstrated that youth benefit from close, caring relationships with adults who serve as positive role models (Jekielek, Moore, & Hair, 2002). Today, 8.5 million youth continue to lack supportive, sustained relationships with caring adults (Cavell, DuBois, Karcher, Keller, & Rhodes, 2009). Mentoring—which matches youth or “mentees” with responsible, caring “mentors,” usually adults—has been growing in popularity as both a prevention and intervention strategy over the past decades. Mentoring provides youth with mentors who can develop an emotional bond with the mentee, have greater experience than the mentee, and can provide support, guidance, and opportunities to help youth succeed in life and meet their goals (DuBois and Karcher, 2005). Mentoring relationships can be formal or informal with substantial variation, but the essential components include creating caring, empathetic, consistent, and long-lasting relationships, often with some combination of role modeling, teaching, and advising.

NYC Mentoring Children Collaboration

The New York City Mentoring Children Collaboration (NYC MCC) was created to leverage resources to provide mentoring to children of incarcerated parents. NYC MCC is New York City-based, with four collaborating organizations serving of all the boroughs of NYC.Our collaboration was created with the funding support from The New York Community Trust to provide mentoring programs that tailor the needs of our children to the individual neighborhoods in which they live.

Youth-produced Media in Community Change Efforts

Drawing on a larger evaluation of the Sierra Health Foundation's REACH youth program, this issue brief examines best practices for using youth-produced media as part of a community change effort.

Youth in Decision Making: A Study on the Impacts of Youth on Adults and Organizations

Based on interviews with yout and adults from 15 organizations, the 61-page research report reflects the first significant research on the impacts young people have on adults and organizations when they are involved in significant decision-making roles.

Transitions: Turning Risks into Opportunities for Student Support

This Introductory Packet provides readings and related activities on support for transitions to address barriers to student learning covering both research and best practices. It explores why transitions are dangerous opportunities that can disrupt or promote development.

Tunnels & Cliffs: A Guide for Serving Youth with Mental Health Needs

This guide provides practical information and resources for youth service professionals and policymakers, from the program to the state level, with information to help them address system and policy obstacles in order to improve service delivery systems for youth with mental health needs. The guide provides the Guideposts for Success for Youth with Mental Health Needs which includes all the elements of the original Guideposts as well as additional specific needs relating to youth with mental health needs.

Using Camp to Bolster Youth-driven Community Change

Drawing on a larger evaluation of the Sierra Health Foundation's REACH youth program, this issue brief describes how a summer camp experience can be used as a strategy to support a community change initiative.

Toward Making Good on All Youth

Drawing on a larger evaluation of the Sierra Health Foundation's REACH youth program, this issue brief examines ways to engage underrepresented youth populations in community youth development. A set of key principles is developed based on lessons from field research.