Exceptional youth development programs depend on exceptional youth workers. The relationships built between trusted mentors and youth are instrumental in the latter’s personal growth.
Next Step To Success takes the role of a youth worker very seriously. We believe in the power of a mentor when it comes to positively influencing a young person’s life. This is why NSTS emphasizes the professional development of our Success Coaches. Success Coaches and NSTS program leaders regularly come together to review best practices in youth development programs and apply those lessons to our programming.
According to the T/TAC website, “T/TAC staff members provide a variety of professional development services for educators in Eastern Virginia. Services are tailored to meet identified needs and include workshops, action planning with progress monitoring, a lending library and website, newsletters, coaching, and ongoing support.” While T/TAC focuses primarily on youth with mild to moderate disabilities, a lot of the topics apply to all adolescents. Plus, their specialty serves as an opportunity for NSTS staff to improve the ways in which we serve youth with disabilities. Together, we improve the experiences of NSTS staff and youth.
T/TAC Program Specialist LaShauna Britt leads many of the workshops alongside Director Debbie Grosser, bringing years of experience and shedding light on tips and tricks for youth workers. Her time as a special education teacher, secondary English teacher, and reading specialist in various settings and grade levels arms her with valuable insight into youth development.
Grosser brings 30 years of experience in special education as a vocational evaluator, special education teacher, transition specialist, and technical assistance provider. She specializes in team facilitation, coaching, and secondary transition planning.
They have introduced innovative and engaging ways to check-in with youth, like cards with emojis printed on them for youth to express their opinions and emotions in a unique visual way. Ideas for productive group activities were also reviewed in addition to a workshop on types of disabilities and examples of challenges that students with disabilities might have in and out of the classroom.
One of the workshops centered on Secondary Transition for adolescents, an important topic since mentors like our Success Coaches serve on the support team helping youth during a transitional period of their lives. Trainers reviewed life skills that adolescents need to develop in order to thrive in adulthood. There are many ways that after school and summer programs can incorporate discussions and activities that build these life skills.
The workshop also touched on the needs of modern employers. The transition into adulthood (and the second step of the Success Sequence) requires adolescents to build skills like critical thinking, a growth mindset, problem solving, and creativity.
Other workshops led by T/TAC professionals included Self-Determination and Self-Representation, Problem Solving and Critical Thinking, and more.
Effective professional development is crucial to effective youth development programs. It benefits both new and experienced youth workers. In a 2006 brief from childtrends.org, training for youth workers was said to help them:
1) relate effectively to young people and understand their needs,
2) develop and execute interesting activities for youth,
3) help young people resolve behavioral problems and issues between themselves and others,
4) interact effectively with parents, school staff, and any other stakeholders and,
5) effectively communicate the mission, goals, and polices of the program.
Building our staff competencies through professional development results in better staff retention and decreased burnout, highlighting the importance of making these workshops available to everyone involved with Next Step to Success.
By inviting other professionals in the youth development field throughout Hampton Roads to join us for the training, NSTS is cultivating a strong network for exchanging ideas on best practices in youth development programs. This collaboration will alleviate the stress on those organizations that are limited in their ability to provide robust professional development due to limited financial resources, inaccessible locations, or other obstacles.
Next Step To Success consistently commits to excellence in youth character and life skills development. We are grateful for the team at the Training and Technical Assistance Center at William & Mary for their part in helping us become better and better. Their professional development workshops and trainings have advanced our mission to help youth in Norfolk build the independent, resilient character they will need to earn success and enjoy happy, fulfilling lives as adults. This collaboration with a prominent university truly is a great next step.
Youth deserve excellent options for after school programs and summer camps. Ones that always strive to better their service to young people. To give a youth a chance at quality programming they deserve, fill out an application here.