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Extension > Center for Youth Development Update > Our public commitment to equity and youth work

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Our public commitment to equity and youth work

There are approximately 1 million youth living in Minnesota. According to Minnesota Compass, 35% of those young people are not highly engaged in enrichment activities. And 40% report not having a meaningful connection to caring adults in their community. These youth, of every age, gender, race and ethnicity, socio-economic status, religion, and family type, are waiting to be empowered. They are ready to learn and lead.

The U of M Extension Center for Youth Development has a long history of using research-based, positive youth development practices to reach and empower young people. For 100 years, we’ve been learning, growing, and sharing our knowledge with other youth workers across the state.
 
The youth of Minnesota are always changing. Current technology and access to diverse ideas and experiences influence their needs, values, and expectations. Each time the youth of Minnesota change, our center must adapt and change right alongside them.
At this stage of our growth, we see a gap in our practice that needs to change. There are young people in Minnesota who we need to partner with more fully. Youth of color and indigenous young people, youth who are queer, youth from families of low income, and recent immigrants, these youth we can serve better.
 
We have a vision for our future. A vision to empower all youth with the skills they need to lead for a lifetime. We are clear on where we want to go. On who we want to be. But we cannot do it alone.
 
Today, we are publicly announcing two efforts directly connected to our vision.
 
  • We are embarking on a 3-year commitment focused on equity and youth work. Because we are not experts, we will be conveners and co-learners. We will invite experts (both from research and practice) to share their knowledge and help us better empower all Minnesota youth.
  • We are also systematically expanding access in our own youth development program, Minnesota 4-H. Our First Generation 4-H Initiative is an organization-wide effort to think critically about what is core to the 4-H experience. Our goal is to boldly remove institutional and practiced barriers that limit who can join, feel welcome, and lead.
We invite you to join us on this equity journey. Together, we can ensure all youth in our community are empowered to learn, to lead, and to make a difference.
 
I am honored to share this journey with you.
 
Dorothy McCargo Freeman
Associate dean

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