Can you remember what it was like to be a teenager? You either struggled to “fit in” or you were very “popular’ and you struggled for just a moment alone. It seemed as if you were constantly adjusting to changes, people and the environment every other day. Discussing certain topics such as pregnancy, abortion, sexual preference, sexual abuse, domestic violence and addictions to drugs and alcohol were taboo for you and your parents. It seemed as if there was no one to talk to. I want to lend an ear.
I attended a training called “Enhancing Positive Youth Development Outcomes (EPYDO): Learning Environment Strategies that Work.” It was developed using the Community Programs to Promote Youth Development report published by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine in 2002. According to the report, there are eight essential features of Positive Youth Development (PYD) evident in effective youth development programs. The eight features are:
1. Physical and Psychological Safety
2. Appropriate Structure
3. Supportive Relationships
4. Opportunities to Belong
5. Positive Social Norms
6. Support for Efficacy and Mattering
7. Opportunities for Skill Building
8. Integration of Families, Schools, and Communities
The learned curriculum can also serve as a technical assistance tool to help improve performance levels on the Program Quality Assessment (PQA), developed by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality in consultation with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (NYS OCFS). The NYS OCFS PQA is a self-assessment that monitors a program’s use of various components of the eight features of PYD. It is intended to assist youth service providers in strengthening their program’s delivery of these eight features.
PYD is defined as an asset-based approach to working with young people. It is an intentional process that involves caring people and supportive programs. It also provides systems that give opportunities for youth to grow and develop necessary skills that will empower and assist them through the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Programs that utilize a PYD approach are coordinated, well structured and consistently built upon the strengths of youth, as opposed to focusing on deficiencies or trying to address one perceived issue at a time.
Upon entering the room there was a sign-in sheet and a binder for each person to take. Inside the binder were an outline of the three-day curriculum and a tabbed set of eight modules that contained activities and their time frames. After everyone was seated, the instructor introduced himself as Mr. Ron Quatermon. He briefly told the group a little bit about himself and went over the overview outline of the EPYDO Strategies that had been given out to everyone.
Next, Ron told the group that before he began the training, he would have us participate in an icebreaker activity called “Assume the Identity”. As Ron passed out a handout with questions on it, he explained the instructions. The objective of the activity was to establish a positive interactive tone and to provide everyone an opportunity to get to know each other. It also provided us with an engaging activity in positive youth development that could be used in programs. Each person was to fill out the questions. When everyone was done, Ron collected them, turned them upside down, and shuffled them. He then asked each person to pick up a paper. After everyone had a paper, they walked around the room introducing themselves as the name of the person written on the paper, along with the given information. Once you met someone whose identity you had, you gave it to the person and switched papers, until you found your identity. Then you had a seat until everyone had gotten back his or her identity. The goal was for each person to mingle with other people in the room until they finally found their own identity.
As I went around the room in search of my identity there was a sense of excitement and happiness that filled the room. Everyone was smiling. Reflecting back, it seemed that any awkward feelings had disappeared from the room and total comfort had taken over. This activity had surely accomplished its goal.
As the day continued we engaged in various activities that related to the eight features of PYD and we also discussed them. Any programs main operating system should be impacted with the Seven Commitments of Sanctuary:
2. Emotional Intelligence
3. Social Learning
4. Open Communication
5. Social Responsibility
7. Growth & Change
The entire training lasted three days. On the last day of the training each member was given a certificate of completion. I am excited to know that the training I have just completed enables me to implement it to our youth, to other adults, or in a program that may be lacking strength in one of the eight major features. I feel confident that I can train another person with the training I received. I am hoping that this training will allow me to be a listener to youths in need.
The following is a poem I wrote entitled:
“No One To Talk To…A Teenager’s Voice”
Can you hear me?
The whispers are loud enough to wake up the deaf
But who exactly is going to listen…
Not the alcoholic father whose throat is a funnel chugging away
Nor the mother who is blinded by guilt and shame
Not the uncle who paid for school, but cannot buy class
Nor the aunt who can’t stand drugs, she keeps falling
Maybe the actress from Beetlejuice arrested for shoplifting by not paying attention,
Or the actor with a playhouse arrested for public masturbation
The pedophile who believes his type of relationship is healthy
Or the gang members on the corner, dying to initiate you
Not the guardian angels staging subway rescues for publicity
Not the suicidal girlfriend whose arms have stripes
Nor the counselor who babbles to the adults about the students in school
Perhaps the teacher who seems to talk to your breasts
Or the boy who swore he loved you, until he got you to undress
Get fucking real I would rather talk to myself
Can you hear me?
There is nowhere to turn; there is nobody here but you just me.