By Jennifer Thomas, Youth Development Specialist at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development
The National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth’s (NCWD/Youth) Youth Action Council on Transition (YouthACT) recently published By Youth, For Youth: Employment, YouthACT’s third resource designed to aid youth in transition. It was important to NCWD/Youth that the youth and their adult partners on the council worked in partnership while also ensuring youth voice was at the forefront. In order to complete the brief with these important values in mind, we had to consider supports the youth might need and assist all YouthACT participants in identifying clear steps and strategies when working together. Clarifying the purpose, identifying the process, and discussing the product were key elements in pulling off the completion of the By Youth, For Youth: Employment InfoBrief.
It was important that YouthACT participants knew the purpose of the brief. NCWD/Youth informed the council that we needed their help in developing resources for youth when making decisions about their transitions to adulthood. We also made sure they were aware we wanted to create a document for all youth, including youth with disabilities and other disconnected youth (youth in the juvenile justice system, foster care system, out-of-school youth, etc.). We asked the teams to help us come up with documents that they would want to share with other youth and to be willing to share this brief with their peer networks. Having a clear purpose also helped the youth and adults reflect on their own experiences, enabling them to share their perspectives more openly. This helped individuals think about the supports they would need and staff think about how to create a safe space, especially for the youth.
In order to begin developing By Youth, For Youth: Employment, it was important to help YouthACT figure out a topic to cover, so we had brainstorming sessions via teleconference. The youth and adults were encouraged to freely list the topics. Then, we helped YouthACT narrow down the possibilities. Afterwards, we worked with YouthACT to develop an outline to identify the main points to cover. It was important that we mention creative jobs for one youth and finding your dream job for another. Next, we asked individuals to select parts to write, encouraging them to work in pairs or in groups if they preferred. Additionally, we took this time to make them aware that the document they were creating would be edited and may not look exactly the same once finalized. We helped the council set due dates for their parts. During the point in the process where council members were writing, reminders were sent regularly and some youth were provided assistance fleshing out their thoughts. Council members were then given the opportunity to review the final document and suggest any edits.
We followed up with YouthACT to get their input on the design of the brief. “How do you want the information arranged?” and “Should this brief be a tool youth can actually use or write/type in?” were among the many questions asked. “There should be pictures of youth working different jobs,” was one response. Participants wanted youth using the brief to have additional resources and to be able to note when they completed important steps. They also felt very strongly that youth’s experiences should be incorporated. As a result, in each section, there are tips and information, a checklist, URLs to additional resources, and a quote from a youth involved in YouthACT. There are also pictures of youth in various employment settings.
If you are going to incorporate youth-adult partnership and/or true youth voice when developing resources, know that it may take more work, but it is so worth it! Clarifying the purpose, identifying the process, and discussing what the product should be will definitely encourage youth to engage in resource development. Supports may be needed and parameters (i.e., expectations of all involved) need to be introduced as soon as possible. Discussions among the group are also really helpful. So go ahead: create a safe space and get your hands dirty creating resources with youth!
Check out the final product: By Youth, For Youth: Employment and take a look at the other YouthACT co-written publications: Guiding Your Success and Hitting The Open Road After High School: How to Choose Your Own Adventure to Success!
Learn more about YouthACT and check out some of other blogs written by current YouthACT participants and alumni:
- The Path for Passion – by Blake Ayers, YouthACT Team Guiding Lights of Indiana
- Ed Roberts and the Americans with Disabilities Act Legacy – By Sam Xu and Heather Yaden, YouthACT Team Berkeley