Hi, I am Lan To, Director of Postsecondary Initiatives at Good Shepherd Services in New York City. Each year, Good Shepherd hosts a Youth Summit for our participants in middle-school and high-school-aged programs, where they form teams to work on a research-based service learning project over a 4-month period. Each team is asked to identify a critical issue of concern in their community (programs participate from across the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan), research it, develop a project to address it, and then create a presentation to share about their findings at the Youth Summit.
In alignment with our commitment to youth development and college and career readiness, the Youth Summit inspires the development of youth voice, youth leadership, civic engagement, networking, teamwork, and research and presentation skills. It is a youth-led event run by a council of youth representatives from each participating program with the support of staff mentors and coaches. We value this experience because it highlights our young participants’ ideas and values, helps develop a skill set for research-based project development, and inspires agents of social change within the various communities we work. It is about youth teaching youth (and adults) about issues they deem important, and features their strategies on how to make a difference.
- Youth-driven research is most effective when staff are well-versed in the service-learning process, but still flexible enough to allow youth to explore within the process. We created a mentor professional learning community to help staff mentors in our various programs connect and share best practices.
- Connecting youth teams to “topic experts” in the community helped enhance their research and overall project by making the research more tangible and the findings applicable to current work occurring in the field. For example, one team focusing on the issue of “healthy relationships” was connected to a local domestic violence shelter.
- Here are a couple handouts we use to help organize the youth summit each year – Guide for Mentors and a Who’s Who and What’s What
- To learn more about the youth summit and research topics selected by participants, check out the Program Guide from our 2015 Youth Summit.
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