What is Youth Development?

What is Youth Development?


Youth development is a policy perspective that emphasizes providing services and opportunities to support all young people in developing a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging, and power. While individual programs can provide youth development activities or services, the youth development approach works best when entire communities offer youth development opportunities. This can occur when a community as a whole agrees upon standards for what all young people need to grow into happy and healthy adults and then creates a continuum of care and opportunities to meet those needs. Youth development also is about strengthening families and communities and involving young people in those efforts. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services)


This definition accurately describes youth development as a process that all young people go through on their way to adulthood. As the definition indicates, it is a process or journey that inevitably involves all of the people around a youth; family and community. A young person will not be able to build necessary skills and proficiencies and be able to feel safe, cared for, valued, useful, and spiritually grounded unless their family and community provide them with the support and opportunities they need along the way. Thus, youth development is also a process in which family and community must actively participate in nurturing the lives of our future leaders.

As I go through my journey to fulfill my purpose in mentoring the youth, I realize that my caring presence will have short and long term positive influences that will range in outcomes, including improvements in peer and parental relationships, academic achievement, and self-concept, as well as lower tendency rates among juvenile delinquents, and reductions in substance abuse.

I think what draws me to wanting to work with the youth so heavily is my natural desire as a woman to want to nurture, guide and protect. Also, as a youth I was a “hot mess”, a delinquent, always into something I had no business doing. I know what’s out there and how easy it is to get distracted by the so called “glamorous life.” I understand, just like you how hard it is to maintain your individuality but still want to fit in. I like to share with the youth that I understand, not that I haven’t been there and they should be ashamed of what they are doing, but that I was there too, and it’s okay; but I got through it by positive reinforcement and making the decision for myself that I wanted a better life/future. I think kids need to hear about our struggles when we were younger (but don’t give them too much, (smile)), and they need to hear it from another caring adult often times. It’s time to be real with our kids and stop sugar coating real life situations.

Our kids need us now more than ever! Throughout this newsletter I have listed just a few ways you can help. I’ve listed these because these are a few things that I am involved in, but I know there are tons of other ways we as a community can come together in youth development. I encourage you to think about mentorship, or taking time to get more involved in your local community, or donating time and/or money to a struggling non-profit organization. Take notice to what is going on around you. Of course we cannot save the world single handedly, but we can make small efforts to encourage and uplift our children just by simply and sincerely showing we care.

I hope you enjoy my monthly newsletter where I invite you to get involved and join me on a mission on nurturing our future leaders as well as assisting in building stronger communities. I am available for inspirational speaking engagements to schools, churches, correctional facilities and nonprofit and youth organizations.  Many blessings to you and yours.




Ari “No Limitations” Squires
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