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Youth Development

Important yet undervalued and overlooked

By Davin PaigePublished 5 years ago 3 min read

Almost two decades ago I started working in the youth development field as a counselor during the summer. I worked with school aged youth in Caton Park. I never knew it would become a career I was passionate about. Growing up in a house full of kids and being the older one, I had to assume responsibility over my younger family members. Because of my upbringing, being in this field felt right. As I progressed I began to love it more and more. However, the more passionate I became the more obstacles I faced. It became painfully obvious, after a few years of working in this field, that it was business as usual. Numbers to show funders were more important than the efficiency of the work being done. The politics of business had invaded a field founded on empathy and advocacy.

One main reason for the way things have become is the hiring process. More emphasis is placed on a degree than actual experience and/or skills. This has allowed people who are not passionate about helping or working with youth to work with organizations that claim to be focused on just that. As a professional in youth development, I understand how vital our role is to our participants. For some young people, we are the closest thing they have to family. They depend on our guidance to help them seize all opportunities available to them. This field should not be a stepping stone for someone interested in collecting checks for the time being because there are lives at stake. I have worked for several of the bigger organizations involved in youth development in NYC and this is a consistent amongst all these organizations. I can wholeheartedly say I have seen this first hand.

We need to operate with the same caution and attention to detail as other fields. You can’t just decide to be an IT professional or accountant. You have to work toward the goals, as well as present proof in the form of education and experience. It is not as simple as applying and interviewing. The leaders in the field of youth development should act as gatekeepers preventing those looking to fulfill selfish wants from entering, potentially impacting lives negatively. One person’s negligence can negatively impact an entire program that services hundreds of people. It is crucial that we invest in those people who are passionate about changing the lives of our youth.

Funders are equally as responsible. It is crucial that they are fully aware of how the programs they fund operate. It is easy to fake it when you have an announced site visit twice a year. I have seen documents forged to make it look like programs are running great and kids are attending when they were not. I have also seen young professionals mishandled by managers. I have seen managers act in such atrocious ways that reflected poorly on the organization and left them legally liable. Hearing Linda Fairstein was apart of one of the bigger human service organizations as a board member, even after the truth came out about the Central Park 5 was not shocking to me at all. Imagine all the people we still have in this field, who have done terrible things to people, that have not faced all the negative publicity she has.

Youth Development is important because of all the great things it does for people who cannot always do for themselves. It has provided a safe haven for many, including myself. It has played an important role in shaping future generations and still continues to do so. We as parents, professionals, and members of the community cannot allow it to be taken advantage of.

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About the Creator

Davin Paige

Writing about any and everything that resonates. Exploring creativity in a therapeutic way.

[email protected]

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    Davin  PaigeWritten by Davin Paige

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