Prioritizing Professional Development

Every year, YouthQuest employees complete 40 to 60 hours of professional development focused on the latest developments in afterschool best practices, strategies and techniques.

Professional development sessions are held monthly and are led by a variety of experts, such as Dr. Gale Gorke, who specializes in providing training for afterschool employees and Dr. Lauren Czechowski, a pediatric psychology fellow, just to name a few.

“As the youth development field continues to grow, we want our educators to grow with it,” says LaKeitha Givens, YouthQuest Program Director. “We want our staff to be at the cutting edge of afterschool programming.”

Examples of recent professional development opportunities include:

  • Social Emotional Learning – It’s critical that YouthQuest students feel valued and a sense of belonging during the program. To provide that social and emotional support, staff learned techniques for creating a safe, supportive and child-centered environment. This includes things like greeting students as they arrive to the program, providing opportunities for students to get to know each other and providing youth with opportunities to lead a group.
  • Making Art Come Alive – As part of this year’s “Meet the Masters” art curriculum, YouthQuest students learned about the style and history of a different master artist each month. Before they did, however, YouthQuest staff received special training on the subject matter. By participating in hands-on art lessons, employees gained a deeper understanding of the material and were better prepared to share the lessons with students.
  • Teaching Techniques and Brain-based Learning – For YouthQuest staff to teach students new skills – academic, physical or otherwise – it’s essential that they understand how the students learn. During this professional development sessions, employees focused on gender learning differences, developmental maturity and how to implement curriculum based on each student’s abilities.

According to Givens, YouthQuest encourages staff to invest in their education and, in turn, to teach students to do the same. The staff attends conferences and workshops not just locally, but across the country.

Recently, YouthQuest staff attended the National Afterschool Association Convention in Dallas, where they learned about developing high quality and innovative programming, engaging youth and encouraging healthy lifestyles. Additionally, the Ready by 21 Conference in Austin, Texas trained staff to prepare students for college, work and life as an adult.

This summer, YouthQuest staff will spend three days learning about strategies to prevent bullying, technology updates and more.

“We aim to empower our site team leaders and learning guides by making sure they have the tools they need to accomplish their goals,” Givens says.

YouthQuest is made possible through the generous support of the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and 21st Century Community Learning Centers.