Voice & Choice: Instilling Leadership Skills in YouthQuest Students


At Eisenhower Elementary, YouthQuest students in the Positive Vibes club practice taking “mindful moment” breaks to calm themselves and regroup. Like the site’s other clubs—themed around cooking, art, sports, entrepreneurialism and music—this club wasn’t selected by YouthQuest staff. Rather, it was chosen by students in the program.

“Developing leadership skills is a key component of YouthQuest,” says Cheryl Adkins, program director for YouthQuest. “One way we help foster those skills is through student voice and choice. We empower students by giving them the opportunity to make key decisions about the clubs and activities we offer.”

One example of this is Youth Advisory Council, or YAC, a club offered at all YouthQuest sites. Through YAC, students have the power to plan events, create lessons and lead activities. They also identify and coordinate different projects, including family nights and volunteer service projects.

At International Academy of Flint, for example, elementary students in Youth Advisory Council created the YAC Store. There, students can buy trinkets and snacks using YQ bucks, which they earn by exhibiting good behavior.

“When students are in charge, they feel ownership over the program,” Adkins says. “They care about the outcomes and enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor. It makes the program more engaging and develops young leaders in the process.”

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

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