Nikki and I are at the Ready by 21 National Meeting in New Orleans this week and are connecting with a lot of change agents we haven't seen in years. It's great to be around those who share memorable learning and growing moments with us as we grow the Youth Development Field.
There's a lot to be said when the Youth Development Field comes together, with their funders and policy makers, to talk about strategies that are and are not working. This week the question is focused on "youth readiness" and authorities are asking "ready for what?" We have data that says young people ought to be in quality programs to be ready. We have data that says programs need to be relevant and culturally responsive to meet the needs of youth and families in neighborhoods we serve. We have data that says relationships matter. So my question to the field is "Are WE ready? Are WE prepared? Are WE equipped to support youth readiness?"
Too many organizations lack the funding to provide adequate training for staff. Too many organizations settle for "good enough" once adult/youth ratios are met. Youth Development Agencies are not willing to announce to parents, "We don't have the funding to train our staff to know how to work with your child." We have to name the reality of how we train and prepare our staff to work with your child. We have to make training the Youth Development Field "to be ready" a priority! When we ask about "youth readiness" we have to be realistic about how we work with youth, not just what we give them. Funders who want to fund "readiness" should be including livable wages for direct service facilitators to attend quality trainings and opportunities to grow their skills. A $30K curriculum on XYZ means nothing if the staff don't know how to work with youth. Let's shift the readiness norms, state the truth and create change. Let's fund high quality staff development opportunities.