Adult allies throughout the state participated in a study group to deepen their knowledge about the theories that inform youth-led programs. Based on this knowledge, they developed white papers designed to provide information on core content areas that are critical for adult allies to understand in order to be effective facilitators of youth-led programs.
Youth-led programs are grounded in positive youth development (PYD); however, they are distinct from other PYD programs because they utilize a youth empowerment approach. Youth empowerment specifically develops sociopolitical awareness in young people, enhancing their skills to be community change agents (Zimmerman, 2000). Youth empowerment facilitates young people in constructing meaningful community change, with the goal of enhancing the wellbeing of all individuals. A youth empowerment approach utilizes young people as resources rather than a “collection of problems” in establishing community change (Holden, 2004). By emphasizing collective participation and contribution, young people gain skills and competencies that cultivate their own positive development, while also promoting the healthy development of others.
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