University of Minnesota Extension
Menu Menu

Extension > Center for Youth Development Update > 2017

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Getting back to youth work basics

Positive youth development focuses on promoting young people’s strengths and giving them opportunities to grow. Youth workers do their work with three basic ideas in mind: the field of youth development, supporting youth needs and the youth worker him or herself.

Kari RobideauExtension educator, reviews the basics of the positive youth development approach to youth work in this blog post. How does the positive youth development approach add intentionality to your work?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Registration is open for the kickoff to our Equity and Youth Development series!


Feb. 19, 2018
9 a.m. - 12 noon

University of Minnesota, St. Paul Campus

Continuing Education and Conference Center
Free, but registration is required.
Based on stakeholder input, we chose to hold this event on a school release day to encourage young people to attend. If you can bring a group of youth, please email Kate Walker.

Register now!

Youth development is a "go-to" strategy for improving the path youth take in life, but critical perspective is often missing. Can youth programs, researchers and practitioners be truly effective in meeting the needs of youth of color without discussions and theories informing research and practice?

We need new and innovative ways to think about youth work that include a critical analysis of how race, gender, class and sexuality relate to our programming, goals and outcomes. Self-work, including equity and diversity training, is necessary to transform youth work. At this symposium, Torie and Connor will discuss race theory, cultural competence, intersectionality and what youth work looks like in today’s America through their demonstration of intergenerational dialogue.

Improve your program by including youth voice in evaluation

ImageIn this week's Youth Development Insight blog post, Betsy Olson talks about the importance of evaluation. Research continues to confirm what we youth workers have known for years – that youth voice is critical for high-quality youth development programming. An important part of this picture – one that is often overlooked – is evaluation.
The Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality offers three strategies to ensure youth have a voice in your program.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Save the date for the kickoff to our Equity and Youth Development series on Monday, Feb. 19

We have invited scholar-activist and practitioner Torie Weiston-Serdan to join us. As a practitioner, Torie has extensive experience working with community-based organizations in support of their youth advocacy efforts, specializing in training mentors to work with diverse youth populations; i.e., Black, Latinx, LGBTQQ, first generation college students and low income youth. As a scholar, she examines how marginalized and minoritized youth are served by youth development and mentoring programs and is the author of Critical Mentoring: A Practical Guide.

Learn over lunch with our Youth Development Brown Bag Webinar Series

Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017
Gain an understanding of bullying prevention strategies useful for all ages and stages of youth in out-of-school programs.

Safe spaces for rural LGBT youth

Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018

Focuses on the need for safe spaces for LGBT youth, our unique ability to provide those spaces within positive youth development programs and interviews with youth themselves.

Help inform professional development for Minnesota's youth workers

If you are a youth work worker in Minnesota, please take the time to fill out this 15 minute survey. Your participation will contribute information that will help fill the geographic and content gaps in professional development for youth works. You will also be entered for one of four Amazon gift cards!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Building a bigger table for our public symposium series

Our center's next public symposium series will focus on Equity and Youth Development. To shape it, we partnered with Imagine Deliver to (re)imagine and design what a series on this complex, important and emerging topic looks like. In July we hosted discovery sessions with staff, stakeholders and young people and gathered input via an online survey. 
Stakeholders surfaced these themes of accountability and equitable hosting:
  • Be transparent about our own equity journey.
  • Ensure that historically silenced voices are centered in both the series leadership and the expertise the series elevates.
  • Elevate youth voices and recommended celebrating the assets of traditionally under-represented communities.
  • Include elements that bridge the urban-rural divide and provide customized learning tracks for dominant culture and indigenous and person of color-identified practitioners.
  • The series must remain both practical and valuable, and help youth-serving organizations operationalize equity in realistic ways - moving beyond conversation and theory, and making equity both tangible and actionable.
Thanks to all who shared their valuable time, candid perspectives and best thinking to this process.
Stay tuned - planning for the series will begin this fall, with a kick-off in early 2018. If you'd like to explore joining our community design team, please contact Kate Walker.

Register now for our upcoming SEL training

Mapping SEL in Youth Programs
You'll walk away with a visual tool to help you explain to stakeholders how and why your program supports SEL.

Take this class on Sept. 22.

Responsive Practices to Support SEL
In this interactive workshop you will explore cultural values and preferences, role-play different scenarios, dig into SEL-related dilemmas.

Take this class on Oct. 4.

Learn over lunch at our 2017-18 Youth Development Brown Bag Webinar Series!

The University of Minnesota Extension and North Dakota State University Extension have partnered to offer the youth development brown bag webinar series. The purpose is to provide research-based information on hot topics, trends, and innovative programmatic efforts on content relevant to youth practitioners over the lunch hour (11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. CT). 


Social & emotional learning in practice: An online toolkit
Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017
This webinar takes a tour through the SEL toolkit's activities, templates and tools organized around four ways to help support staff and youth in SEL. Participants will discover how they can apply the activities in the SEL toolkit to their programming.

Addressing bullying in out-of-school youth development programs
Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017
Participants will gain an understanding of bullying prevention strategies useful for all ages and stages of youth in out-of-school programs. We will also take a look at how relational aggression, a form of bullying, can be identified and addressed.

Safe spaces for rural LGBT youth
Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018
This webinar will focus on the need for safe spaces for LGBT youth, our unique ability to provide those spaces within positive youth development programs and interviews with youth themselves.

Find more information and register

Applications are now being accepted for the 2017-18 Cohort of the North Star Youth Worker Fellowship

The NorthStar Youth Worker Fellowship is a cohort-based professional development experience designed to engage youth work practitioners in exploration, reflection, and study of issues facing the field of youth work in Minnesota. Over the course of 9 months, Fellows will embark on a journey that increases knowledge of the field of youth work in Minnesota and develops important leadership skills through critical thinking, interviews, study, writing and reflection in order to influence policy and practice at the individual, program and field levels.

Each fellow will identify an inquiry question and spend time figuring out how to answer that question by reviewing relevant research and writings; tapping the local wisdom of their professional network; and engaging in conversation with local and national leaders in the field. Fellows will then write an essay that attempts to answer their question. These essays will then inform systems development and field advancement in Minnesota. Inquiry topics will vary by participant but must relate to policy and practice issues relevant to the field of youth work in Minnesota.

Find application materials and more information

Registration is now open for Capturing Imaginations: Building Skills

This is the 2nd biennial joint conference hosted by Ignite Afterschool and SciMathMN.

Wednesday Nov. 29 - Thursday Nov. 30, 2017 in St. Paul

Conference mission: To strengthen youth learning by investigating, connecting, and advancing formal and informal STEM education and workforce pathways.

Register now

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Help inform our Equity and Youth Development series

The Extension Center for Youth Development's next 3‑year public symposium series will focus on exploring and supporting equity within Minnesota’s youth development programs. We have engaged an equity-focused creative strategy firm, Imagine Deliver, to help us (re)imagine and design what a series on this complex, important and emerging topic looks like.

In July we hosted a discovery day to capture insights from a diverse group of community stakeholders and young people. We learned things like 1) to encourage more youth to attend these events we should hold them on school release days, 2) we need to amplify practice-based expertise, and 3) we need to be transparent about how we are operationalizing equity within our own 4-H program.

Now we'd like to hear from you! What should this series look and feel like? Who and what do you want to learn from and about? What is something you wish you could say, ask, or talk about in your organization, but feel you can't? Please take less than 5 minutes to share your thoughtful and creative ideas here

Thank you for lending your valuable time, candid perspective and best thinking to shape our next series.

Register now for our SEL training suite

SEL in Practice is our foundation workshop and we recommend taking it first. We introduce our Ways of Being model and four strategies to intentionally support SEL: 1) equip staff, 2) create the learning environments, 3) design impactful learning experiences and 4) use data for improvement. Take this class on Sept. 7.

If you want to dig into how your program design supports SEL, register a small team for Mapping SEL in Youth Programs. You'll walk away with a visual tool to help you explain to stakeholders how and why your program supports SEL. Take this class on Sept. 22.

If you want to hone your ability to respond in the moment to SEL skill-building opportunities, sign up for Responsive Practices to Support SEL. In this interactive workshop you will explore cultural values and preferences, role-play different scenarios, dig into SEL-related dilemmas. Take this class on Oct. 4.

All three trainings build on and apply resources and activities from our free SEL toolkit.

How to connect with young people through books

In this month's Youth Development Insight blog post, Sam Granttalks about her experience connecting with youth through books. Literature is a way for you to learn more about the realities of young people in your program. Do you know what it’s like to be an African American 12-year-old? How about a Native American 6-year-old? Reading about youth with different life experiences helps broaden perspectives.

What books would you recommend to other youth workers?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tips on writing surveys for youth

In this month's Youth Development Insight blog post, Betsy Olson talks about how to collect opinions from the youth in your program by asking the right questions.
In surveys, asking the right questions can be tricky. The questions can be too complex, the responses can be mismatched or the vocabulary can be confusing.

Don't go through all the hard work of collecting survey data from a group of young people without ensuring the responses measure what you intend to measure and accurately reflect their experiences.

Learn more!

New podcast: Q & A - frequently asked questions youth workers have about technology

Molly Frendo and Kari Robideau, Extension educators - distance learning technology
Kari and Molly answer 3 frequently asked questions youth workers have about technology:
  • How do I stay current on the latest social media tools young people are using?
  • Can you help me create a video in Articulate Storyline for my program?
  • How do I use technology with young people without overusing it?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Upcoming training

  • Regional forum in Grand Rapids
    Save the date: Oct. 5, 9 a.m. - noon

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Safe spaces matter more than labels for LGBT youth

In this month's Youth Development Insight blog post, Joe Rand discusses the meaning and importance of terms and acronyms we use to label LGBT youth.

In grad school, I often heard the term "queer" used to describe LGBT youth—without any negative connotation, just as a neutral term. I also have vivid memories from my younger days of being called queer as an insult.

So when this word is used to describe the community I belong to, it often often trips me up. Furthermore, in my rural context, "queer" is not a term that has been effective or comfortable, compared with terms like LGBT, gay or lesbian.

Join the conversation!

New podcast: The relationship between youth program quality and Social and Emotional Learning

Margo Herman, Extension educator

Margo examines the relationship between youth program quality improvement and intentional efforts around program design - all to support the development of social and emotional skills. Margo defines and gives examples of youth program quality and social and emotional learning (SEL) in order to understand the distinction between the two and how they can support each other.

Listen to the podcast.
More about SEL
Listen to the podcast series.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Video is now available for February's symposium

Were you unable to attend Getting Intentional about SEL: Promise, Progress, and Priorities?  Now you can watch the highlights from home! 

Watch 10 short clips from the symposium.

How to shatter the stereotypes that hold back Somali youth

Before you read this blog post, type “Somali youth Minnesota” into your Google search engine. Take a look at the stories that populate and see if you see a pattern. What did you notice? 

In this month's Youth Development Insight blog post, Joanna Tzenis talks about issues that are hindering the positive development of Somali American youth in Minnesota. Join the conversation!

Have you listened to our 2 latest podcasts yet?

For LGBT youth, safe spaces can be hard to find

For LGBT youth, access to safe spaces is a crucial part of development and exploring self-identity. Joe Rand, Extension educator, discusses why this is a fundamental concern for youth programs. 

Listen to the podcast.

Support volunteer motivation with technology

Molly Frendo, Extension educator for distance learning technology, discusses research and best practices for using technology when communicating with volunteers.

Listen to the podcast.

Minnesota Department of Education is seeking applications for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant program

Funding is available to establish, sustain and expand community learning centers in order to provide students, particularly those who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools, with high quality programs for supporting the whole child. The focus of the funds is for programming offered primarily during non-school hours, including before school, after school, evenings, school release days, and summer.

Please visit the Grant Opportunity webpage and scroll down to this grant opportunity for the application documents. The application must be received by June 1.

Contact Eric Billiet at  for further information.

Special JYD issue on practitioner inquiry

This special issue in the Journal of Youth Development (JYD) bridges the research-practice divide with scholarship produced by and for youth work practitioners. The authors featured in this issue were part of the NorthStar Youth Worker Fellowship, a community-based effort to strengthen youth worker voice and support youth workers in organizational and community leadership roles. Lindsay Walz of Courageous heARTS and Hayley Tompkins of Minneapolis Beacons/YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities served as guest editors.

Register for our upcoming training opportunities!

Creating Partnerships with Tribal Nations

May 10, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Are you interested in collaborating with reservations or American Indian programs and organizations? This webinar will focus on the barriers and strategies for creating partnerships with tribal nations.

Save the date for the Northeast regional forum!
Oct. 5, 9 a.m. - noon, Grand Rapids

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Youth work self studies are now available for free!

The following training opportunities include 3-6 hours of individual online learning.

Dilemmas in Youth Work Online: A self-study
Explores research on the dilemmas of youth work. Participants examine, discuss, and respond to these situations, and develop youth-centered strategies for addressing dilemmas in their own work that better meet the developmental needs of youth.

Youth Engagement Matters Online: A self-study
Explores a research framework, Rings of Engagement, which outlines four types of youth engagement and youth-adult partnerships.

Youth Work Matters Online: A self-study
Explores the foundational research and theories of positive youth development and applies course content to participants’ work with youth.

Listen to our latest podcasts!

Getting Intentional About SEL

Kate Walker, associate Extension professor

Social and emotional learning (SEL) includes learning to be aware of and manage emotions, work well with others, and work hard when faced with challenges. Youth programs develop SEL skills by creating opportunities for young people to engage in real-world projects, work in teams, take on meaningful roles, face challenges and experience the emotional ups and downs that come along the way. Kate Walker discusses a free online SEL toolkit that includes activities, templates and tools organized around four ways to help support staff and youth in SEL.

Listen to the podcast.
Read the blog post.

We can prepare youth for college, but not in the way you think!

Joanna Tzenis, Extension educator

"College prep" programs make an effort to instill in youth the desire to go to college and the hard skills to qualify, but it's not enough. They leave out something important - the young person, so many marginalized young people are still not ending up with degrees. Joanna discusses ways they include research around aspirations, future orientation, and social inequalities into the 4-H campus immersion program design.

Listen to the podcast.
Read the blog post.

Top 10 things you need to know about the Journal of Youth Development

In this week's Youth Development Insight blog post, Kate Walker talks about being the new editor of the Journal of Youth Development (JYD), which is dedicated to advancing youth development practice and research. JYD fills a critical niche as a place for relevant and useful studies about and for those working with and on behalf of young people. She is seeking articles that feature applied research that can inform practice, useful evaluation strategies to improve programs for youth, and promising programs that have insights for others. Learn about the top 10 things you need to know!

Online videography adventure for middle schoolers

Learn how to make movies like a pro

This is an online learning opportunity for Minnesota youth in grade 5-8 / age 10-14. It is created by the University of Minnesota and open to any youth who like making videos. Participants can win prizes for completing each of the three levels of learning and scholarships are available. 

A limited number of spots are open in the session that starts this Friday, April 7. Please pass this along via your networks to any youth who might be interested.

For more information:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Slides and summary are available from Getting Intentional about SEL

At our capstone to the social and emotional learning symposium series on Feb. 9, Dr. Dale Blyth offered reflections on the opportunities and challenges of improving social and emotional learning both within and beyond the classroom. A panel shared current Minnesota efforts to grow and support social and emotional learning. Finally, in World Café conversations, participants came up with ideas for moving forward and supporting social and emotional learning for youth and the adults working with them.

The video recording of Dr. Blyth's presentation will be posted on the website soon.

For LGBT youth, safe spaces can be hard to find

In this week's Youth Development Insight blog post, Joe Rand discusses how access to safe spaces is a crucial part of development and exploring self-identity for adolescents. For youth programs, this is a fundamental concern. Only when youth feel emotionally and physically safe are they able to present themselves in an authentic way and engage in positive development. Without that authenticity, true development cannot take place. What do you think? Join the conversation!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Announcing a new, free online resource to support social and emotional learning (SEL)

Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A Toolkit of Practical Strategies and Resources includes activities, templates and tools to help support staff and youth in social and emotional learning. It is organized around the “Ways of Being” model, and was developed as a companion to the 3-hour training, Social and Emotional Learning in Practice. It is designed primarily for those working with youth in middle school, but with small changes the activities can be
used for other age groups as well.

Learn more!

What does it mean to make a difference?

In the latest Youth Development Insight blog post, Karyn Santl talks about how the number and intensity of high-quality relationships in young people’s lives is linked to a broad range of positive outcomes. How do you contribute to these positive outcomes? Join the conversation!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Check out the new Journal of Youth Development

With the start of 2017, our own Kate Walker is the new editor of the Journal of Youth Development (JYD), an open-source, peer-reviewed, quarterly online publication dedicated to advancing youth development practice and research. JYD serves applied researchers and evaluators as well as practitioners who work in youth-serving organizations or the intermediaries that support them. Enroll as a JYD reader, reviewer and author at, and follow JYD on Facebook and Twitter (@JournalYouthDev).

Listen to our latest podcasts!

Our new podcast series features Center for Youth Development staff discussing research and best practices in youth development. 

Sam Grant shares her thoughts on the four ways we mess up storytelling: (1) we make the story about our organization, (2) we want the story to be perfect, (3) we have the story but nothing to back it up, and (4) we try to appeal to emotions and end up victimizing our customers.

Do you ever hear this complaint from local leaders: "There are no young people stepping forward to replace me on this committee!"? They seem frustrated that they can't leave a community committee because there's no one to replace them. Brian McNeill discusses, is there really a leadership gap, and if so, why?
  • © Regents of the University of Minnesota. All rights reserved.
  • The University of Minnesota is an equal opportunity educator and employer. Privacy