Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with this idea of equality. As a child I couldn't put it into words, I didn't know how to say or write down this internal feeling of equality and social justice. My mom was a teacher in Providence, and I would compare her classrooms to those of my own in Hope Highland Elementary School in Western Cranston. I did not come from a place where everyone had millions of dollars in their bank accounts, but I came from an area where DCYF and school social workers were never even heard/spoke of. I couldn't understand this difference, why is was there, what it meant, and why there were differences when I was a kid just like the ones in my mothers classroom.
That was a brief history insight as to why I am so passionate about youth work and empowering youth to be the best they can be. Its been an internal drive for me since the age of four. In this reading of Youth Work by Jason Wood, Sue Westwood, and Gill Thompson (2015) they played out the idea and meaning of a youth worker in many different aspects. This reading allows people to truly understand what a youth worker is/does and how powerful a youth worker can be in a youths life. Wood, Westwood, and Thompson (2015) discuss characteristics of youth workers, and what a youth worker must be to be effective and successful for youth.
1. Teaching an informal curriculum
- This idea of teaching youth as a youth worker, is teaching more life skills through activities and conversations. Teaching them alternative ways to handling problems, responding and not reacting to situations, and helping them form a better path of life to lead.
- Having effective conversations and activities with youth in a group setting I believe is key to working with youth. It is in my opinion more effective because the youth have people to relate to, especially when they might be already having feelings of loneliness or isolation. With "at-risk" youth, working in a group setting might be beneficial to breaking barriers that are formed from gang association or other issues.
- Inequality is everywhere in society, in everything we do in everyday life. Schools even have a lot of inequality within their curriculum. As a youth worker, social justice should be a key in guiding and aiding youth. Many of the youth I will be working with will feel some sort of injustice, and it is my duty as a youth worker to help them battle this injustice, and get the equality they deserve.
- Many programs youth feel compelled to go to, but choosing to be involved in something that is foreign to youth. Some may not want to be at the program they are standing at all, but as a youth worker I must make that space be a place where the youth want to go to instead of have to.
- Giving youth a voice is one of the most powerful impacts a youth worker can have on a child. For me, I think it is the most important thing a youth worker can do. Giving youth a voice and empowering them is my goal in the future.
- Doing youth work can be a welfare type of practice, but keep in mind to always show youth that we are not fixing their problems, but empowering them to be even better.
7. Holistically working with Youth
- Youth may have issues that seem to be "fixed" by fixing the immediate problem you see, but as I've learned in the past, it is much more than just that immediate problem. There are deeper problems rooted int he lives of the youth that we help, and it is our job as a youth worker to find out those imbedded issues and work them out with youth so that they can overcome the real issue.
All of these characteristics were always values of mine. To stay open minded, open hearted and guide youth in ways that mainstream education cannot. I have not been able to effectively use my tools and work directly as a youth worker like I want to be doing so far, but from the small amount of exposure and experience I have had, I believe I've been being a true youth worker. In the classrooms I have worked in I have done more of the mainstream education, and not informal education. Even when I was working in the classrooms in Providence, when a child was upset I was more interested in the child that was crying than the important math equation I was trying to teach. I am excited to use the tools I have been taught in youth development, and truly become all of these characteristics of a Youth Worker.