Researchers at the National Institute on Out-of-School Time (NIOST) recently curated and edited a book called The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field: Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection, and Transformation, as part of Information Age Publishing's Current Issues in Out-of-School Time (OST) series. Through research and personal essays, the book shines a light on the intricate connections between research and practice, touching upon both the vulnerability and triumph of youth development work. The passionate voices of youth workers in this volume lead to the inescapable conclusion that programs and policies for youth must be informed by these same voices and the values they express.
“We hope this book shows OST workers, researchers, funders, and policymakers, as well as other education professionals, how youth workers’ lived experiences inspire their ability to build the relationships that are the foundation of positive and healthy youth development,” said NIOST Director Georgia Hall, Ph.D., a co-editor of the book along with Jan Gallagher, Ph.D., and NIOST Research Associate Elizabeth Starr, M.Ed. “From relationships comes engagement, and from engagement, transformation—centered in equity, inclusion, and belonging. No one is better able to advocate for these truths than the professionals who work with young people to bring positive change to their lives, their communities, and our world.”
Other OST and youth workers will see their own stories reflected in the practitioner essays. The research chapters and essays alike will be valuable resources to faculty leaders of university OST and youth work graduate and certificate programs, as well as to program leaders and others who conduct professional development for OST staff.
From relationships comes engagement, and from engagement, transformation—centered in equity, inclusion, and belonging. No one is better able to advocate for these truths than the professionals who work with young people to bring positive change to their lives, their communities, and our world.
“The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field: Professional Journeys of Growth, Connection, and Transformation is a timely discussion about what we in the out-of-school time and youth development field know already—that this work is an integral part of the success, survival, and thriving of youth,” said Ebony Grace, CEO of NJSACC: The Statewide Network for New Jersey’s Afterschool Communities. “This book will be a catalyst for ensuring the professionalization of our field and additional support and resources for out-of-school time and youth development professionals.”
Added Sam Piha, executive director of the How Kids Learn Foundation and founder and principal of Temescal Associates: “The Heartbeat of the Youth Development Field provides a window into the lives of youth workers and experiences that led to their work with young people. It beautifully illustrates the importance of building positive relationships with youth, and details the practices and strategies successfully employed by youth workers. While this book will be immeasurably valuable to researchers, funders, and policymakers, it is also an important resource for program leaders to promote reflection and discussion among youth worker staff as part of staff development.”
Journeys in Youth Development Podcast
To celebrate the book, NIOST also launched the Journeys in Youth Development podcast, which highlights personal essays by youth development workers from the book. In the first episode of the series, Hall talks to Marisela Montoya, chief program officer at Foundation Communities in Austin, TX, and Kourtney Andrada, senior director of school-based programs at Girls Inc. of Alameda County in Oakland, CA, about their experiences in youth development.
Montoya reads several excerpts from her essay “Sweet Spot,” about how she happened to wander into an afterschool program and found her calling. She talks about an inspiring interaction with a supervisor who pushed her to constantly look for new opportunities to learn and to share that learning with others. Andrada reads from her essay “Investing in Communities of Color,” about her early experiences working with youth as both a track coach and as an advisor to teens in a migrant farmer community who would be first-generation college students. She talks about a fellowship experience that shifted her mindset from working within existing systems to changing those systems.
You can find the Journeys in Youth Development podcast wherever you listen to podcasts, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and iHeart Radio. Follow the podcast on your favorite platform to get notified when new episodes are released monthly.