|A Message from the Executive Director|
Do you want to grow successful young adults or do you want youth who follow orders, abide by structure and never question authority? This was the question put to Tumbleweed staff by Jerry Fest, a national trainer in concepts of Youth Development. Jerry went on to explain that recent research on youth resiliency had revealed that youth who were compliant and unquestioning of strict, institutional structure were often not successful when launched into a world where there are many options and many decisions to be made on a daily basis. The study had established that three specific factors occurred repeatedly in the backgrounds of youth who had a difficult childhood but went on succeed in reaching their goals.
Let me take a step back, though, and first define the word resiliency as it applies here. Resiliency is the innate human quality conveyed through though and behavior that facilitates the ability to overcome adversity. In other words, how to think on your feet and make good decisions under the inevitable pressures life will bring.
The environmental influences that have consistently been shown to promote resiliency are factors which we may take for granted if we grew up in an intact, healthy family but are factors that we must promote for
| the youth in our programs.
These factors include:
Caring and Supportive Relationships
High Expectations in the sense of a belief in the young person's potential and ability
Opportunities for Participation--taking an active role in shaping one's environment
Traditional models of youth service often focus on fixing what is wrong with our youth. The Youth Development Model focuses on developing the capacities and strengths of each individual youth and of groups of youth to positively direct their own futures.
We are in process of re-examining everything we do through
the lens of youth development. On the positive side it has been gratifying
to observe all of the positive ways youth are already involved in our
program. The more challenging element of the is transformation is letting
go of some of the control, we as adults have felt we must exert in our
programs and trusting that given the opportunity, youth will make positive
choices for themselves. It has also been a challenge for the youth to
assume responsibility for decisions rather than blaming others for the
negative things in their lives. We have all had to grow.
So how are we implementing Youth Development concepts at Tumbleweed? At our Young Adult Program, we now have an equally balanced youth/adult council making decisions about how the program operates. We have the bottom line rules of health, safety, and
legality that are non-negotiable. Beyond that, every decision is up for discussion. An agenda is published in advance and items are negotiated with our Counselor acting as a mediator to assure that all sides are considered. At Open Hands, youth are facilitating groups, planning the recreational calendar, negotiating the household chores and mediating conflicts. At the Drop-In Center, youth and staff are working together on an implementation plan. At administration, youth interns now answer our phones, assist in day to day operation and provide input on how our policies effect the youth we serve.
The most invigorating parts of this process are the increased ownership youth are taking in Tumbleweed and the increased self-esteem with which they carry themselves. Today, one of our young clients accepted a check for a Soroptimists of Phoenix grant to Tumbleweed's Young Adult Program. She proudly shared her story and her accomplishments. Afterward, she thanked me for allowing her to represent Tumbleweed. We want every youth to be proud of being a part of Tumbleweed and proud of their accomplishment in their journey to adult-hood.
Janet L. Garcia