Articles, Blog

Involving Youth in Program Planning and Implementation

December 4, 2019

Hello. My name is Alda Santana and I’m a
Project Coordinator with ETR. When organizations involve youth in their
program designs, in their organizational structure, and even on their board or
their leadership structure, it really not only benefits the youth, but it benefits
the organization and it benefits the community as a whole. With youth serving organizations it’s very easy to create programs for youth without their voice
and as adults it’s easy for us to look at data that has been collected and to
recognize different issues that are affecting youth and decide that we want
to build a program based on the data that we have. Youth are experts of their
own lives. They know what is best for them. They are experts of what their
culture is saying. They’re experts of what’s popular, what’s going to speak to
them, and so it’s really important to bring them in from the very beginning in
the planning process of program design through implementation. When I first
started in health education I started with a really great organization in
sexual and reproductive health but a lot of it was teaching curricula, going into a
school for an hour and a half at a time, doing my lesson, and then leaving. And
over time I realized that, yes, sure, we were providing information and
education to youth, it didn’t really see the long-term impact of working with
that community. After that I got involved with organizations that did more peer
learning with youth and had more youth involvement from the beginning of
program design through implementation. And that’s where I really saw the impact
that an organization can have, and a program can have in the community, but
also how that community impacts your program and really makes your program a
success. I’ve worked with programs that not only involved youth but also really
raised those youth to be leaders within their communities. And the program’s also worked with the schools, with teachers, with principals, with parents of youth.
Different systems that the youth interact with on a regular basis. Now I
recognize that not all organizations have the capacity to be involved at that
level. But I think it is important for organizations to kind of take a step
back and look at their programs and see at what level they’re involving youth.
It’s important to get leadership buy-in so if the organization is for youth
making sure that leadership understand the importance of having a youth voice
within the programs. I think it’s important that youth voice is written
into grants. Are you purposely putting money aside for having focus groups or
maybe even money aside to do internship or a part-time position for a young
person. Or writing a grant for a peer-to-peer programming. I think there
are organizations that are doing a great job in this area. How can you partner
with local organizations that are already working directly with
youth? Maybe they already have a youth adult counsel and you don’t need to
recreate another youth adult counsel. But how can you share resources, support
those organizations and work with youth that are involved with those
organizations? And then if there isn’t an organization that’s doing that within
your community, how can your organization start a youth adult Council? How can you
work directly with schools, counselors at schools, and start this council? When I’ve
worked with organizations that had very high levels of youth involvement, we had
such an impact with parent populations, with community organizations. They also
impacted us and it’s a relationship that continued to grow over time. And we did
continue to build rapport with communities and really create change
within those community structures. My name is Alda Santana and I’m a Project Coordinator with ETR. …

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