At Hands4Hope, we aim to cultivate the next generation of socially responsible citizens by empowering youth to make a positive difference in the world around them through Exploration, Action and Leadership. Our primary objective is to show and teach youth how they can make a difference in their communities. We strive to incorporate positive youth development, as well as offer comprehensive leadership development opportunities within all of our programs.
What is Positive Youth Development?
Youth Development is a process that prepares young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through a coordinated, progressive series of activities and experiences which help them gain skills and become socially, morally, emotionally, physically, and cognitively competent. In order to control and direct their own lives based on informed decisions.¹ Youth Leadership is also a part of that process.
Research supports the premise that both youth development and leadership programs positively shape the growth of young people with and without disabilities and from all backgrounds. Youth leadership programs build on solid youth development principles, with an emphasis on those development and program components that support youth leadership.
“A leader is someone who can get things done through the strengths of other people.”
Warren Buffett (cit. Rath & Conchie, 2008, pg. 79)
What is Youth Leadership Development?
Youth leadership is both an internal and an external process leading to (1) the ability to guide or direct others on a course of action, influence their opinion and behavior, and show the way by going in advance; and (2) the ability to analyze one’s own strengths and weaknesses, set personal and vocational goals, and have the self-esteem to carry them out.
At Hands4Hope we offer multi level leadership opportunities to all youth participants starting in middle school and extending through to college. Positive Youth Development and Leadership Development methodologies are embedded in all Hands4Hope Service Learning and Outreach programs. More specifically Hands4Hope uses the Strength-based Leadership Method, developed by Gallup.
Strength-based leadership training is different than other instructional methods of personal development, which focus on the individual as an independent force. Strength-based training focuses on incorporating unique personal strengths with the strengths of others to achieve goals. The strengths approach to leadership training involves moral values and attitudes, because it is based upon a deep respect for the worth and value of others. This type of coaching results in youth who have a clearer understanding of who they are and others around them, helping to shape them into more effective community leaders.
Hands4Hopes Positive Youth Development and Strength-Based Leadership
Why Do Positive Youth Development and Strength-based Leadership Matter?
Overall, positive youth development experiences are connected to positive outcomes in youth, including decreases in negative behaviors (such as alcohol and tobacco use and violence) and increases in positive attitudes and behaviors (such as motivation, academic performance, self-esteem, problem-solving, positive health decisions, and interpersonal skills). Participation in leadership development experiences is linked to increased self-efficacy and the development of skills relevant to success in adulthood and the workplace such as decision-making and working well with others. Building self-advocacy and self-determination skills, an important aspect of leadership development for youth with disabilities, correlates with making a successful transition to adulthood.² More specifically, youth who have been taught to develop strengths understand who they are, have a deeper integration of personal skills, and knowledge of how they can use their talents to serve, meet needs, and lead others.
Furthermore, empowering youth and allowing them the opportunity to participate in the community has shown to benefit their development greatly. When youth become engaged in community activities they develop the skills needed to be an effective leader. When youth realize they have the power to influence decisions at a community or school level, they will rise amongst their peers and begin to show signs of leadership. Youth feel as if they have an obligation and set of skills needed to represent a certain sub-section of the community population in the larger community context. Youth who are engaged in community efforts at a young age show better problem-solving and decision-making skills when compared to those youth who are not engaged. Empowering youth and engaging them in community activities allows them to interact with adults and have guidance as they develop the skills needed to make decisions and solve complex issues.³
¹ National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability. http://www.ncwd-youth.info/youth-development
² National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability. http://www.ncwd-youth.info/information-brief-11