This paper is a critical analysis of Youth Impact Program (YIP). Since their opening in 1992, the YIP has affected the lives of many youths in a very positive way. Youth Impact Program had maintained a constant admission of over 200 participants every year since 2008, who live in different parts of Ogden’s inner - city limits. The youth impact programs include daily transportation, daily meals and snacks, daily tutoring in the study halls, sport activities in the playground, outdoor recreation games, arts and crafts, transitional programs, and gear up college preparation programs etc. The main goal of the YIP is to mentor and nurture the emotional, social and physical needs of at-risk children (Youth Impact Ogden, 2012).
This analysis was carried out by personal observation method and survey during my volunteering at the YIP. I paid particular attention to the following themes:
- Assessment of experience gained/learned, positive and negative.
- Diversity, social work values and ethics, interaction between individual and social environment.
- Hierarchical discussion of The Youth Impact Program within the welfare delivery system.
This analysis examines the values of YIP which are in line with social work values. It considers the social environment of this children and how the values, mentoring and commitments of the youth impact programs ameliorate and change their lives’ prospective.
It assesses the benefits which YIP has on the participants and examines the benefits which a collective impact has on their main goal.
Keywords: diversity, social values, cultural competence, social environment, collective impact, welfare delivery system.
The Youth Impact Program
Assessment of experience gained/ learned, positive and negative.
The youth impact programs have an impact not only on the young participants but also on the volunteers and staff. The experiences gained by volunteering at the YIP are the following:
- By taking part in training and mentoring in various youth impact projects, we gained skills and experiences, not only by constantly mentoring youths but also from working with other volunteers and from guest professionals who were invited to participate.
- By constantly interacting with children, staff and volunteers of different ethnicities, genders, religions, social backgrounds and age, we improved our communication skills, team work, our interest and understanding of different social issues and cultures. The opportunity of interacting with various people resulted in building new relationships and friendships.
- Participating in youth impact service projects, field trips, and special events throughout the community, gave us an opportunity to become involved in different activities; it increased our sense of community identity and our knowledge of community problems. This participation increased our community service hours, which in turn favored our CVs.
The opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life by participating and volunteering in youth impact projects, is very gratifying and definitely increases our self-esteem and self-confidence, but unfortunately it is time consuming.
The YIP improves the participant’s outcomes across emotional, social, academic, health and behavioral domains. Nevertheless, despite the overall benefits of YIP, these improvements in youth outcomes do not always hold over time.
Diversity, social work values and ethics, Interaction between individual and social environment
The children participating in the YIP are of different ethnicities, gender, age, religions, cultures, abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds. In the youth impact program, diversity is recognized, valued and celebrated; moreover, all the participants are treated with respect and dignity irrespective of their race, cultural, religious and ethnic beliefs. YIP promotes a high level of social justice. They definitely adhere to ‘cultural competence’, which is defined by the Child Welfare League of America, as the "ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and faiths and religions, in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each.” (Sakil & Jorge, 2002).
This is achieved by cultivating a personal relationship with the participants. Programs such as service projects, field trips are done in small groups, these help the staff and mentors to build stronger relationships with the participants and ultimately provide better communication and understanding of each other. These relationships enable the Youth Impact Program to better assist the youth in their daily lives.
The fact that these children team up with each other in groups during participation in the YIP despite their diversity increases their mutual respect, tolerance, knowledge and understanding of each other. Though staff and volunteers are also from different ethnicities, gender, age, religions, cultures, abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds, and they are increasing their knowledge of various traditions, culture, beliefs, religions and customs and can contribute to a better outcome in the growth and development of the participants and thus to a higher success of the program.
The social environment a person is situated in, usually defines the person’s physical, social and psychological realities (Florence, 1972). Given that most of the youth participating in the YIP are from some of the poorest neighborhoods in the inner cities, these kids are subjected to poverty, drugs, incarceration of a parent, gang influences etc. Some of these kids redefine their lives after joining the YIP whose slogan is “A safe place to be a kid”, and where the social environment is educational, creative, sportive, nurturing and supportive. In such environment where “natural teaching” occurs, children’s minds, communication, and expressions are aroused and brought to life (Tharpe & Gallimore, 1988).
Although these children spent a lot of time at the YIP daily, and many of them are transported to their homes, some of them have a negative environment in their homes; this situation, unfortunately, reduces the overall outcome the YIP could have on them.
Hierarchical discussion of The Youth Impact Program within the welfare delivery system.
The YIP plays an important part in the welfare delivery system. Their daily interaction with children allows them to see what is really happening in a child’s life thus they are more likely to notice if a child is neglected or abused. Unfortunately, some of these children’s problems are too complex to fix only by the YIP, a collective impact approach is required, shared measurement, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and backbone support. The YIP addresses these challenges through community-wide collaborations, (i.e. working in a system) with the child welfare systems, justice systems, government sector philanthropic sector, health sector, public sector, schools, non-profit organization, adult educational systems and business sector in order to coordinate their efforts around a clearly defined goal (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2012).
This collective impact initiative share a common agenda, share measurement, continuous communication, mutually reinforcing activities, and backbone support.
That is why YIP aligned itself with other agencies such as the Weber State University, Ogden City Community Police, Autoliv, and Ogden Raptors Professional Baseball Org. for a better outcome for the children. Despite these collaborations the Youth Impact Programs can only be responsible for its own competence and work.
The above goes to show that over all the YIP affect most of its young participants very positively, and the fact that participants have been growing in numbers since the opening of the Youth Impact Program in 1992 is a sign of their undeniable success. According to my observations, the Youth Impact Program has been so successful because they reflect their values in all their activities and relationships.