We’ve been talking a lot about quality recently. You’ve probably heard about continuous quality improvement, program quality, quality assurance, high-quality beef… ok maybe not that last one.
When we say program quality, we are usually referring to two things:
- Instruction: the staff practices, standards, and behaviors that create key developmental experiences for youth
- Content: a program with interesting content and specific youth development skills/competencies built within (targeted programs, high-yield activities, etc.)
When your Club has high-quality instruction paired with high-quality content, that is when you will see the greatest positive outcomes for youth. And that is why we exist! To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.
One of the key quality staff practices is youth voice. When youth have voice in their afterschool programs, they provide input and give feedback to adults, they have opportunities to make relevant and meaningful choices, and they are given shared leadership and responsibility in their program. This helps them to both feel more connected to and invested in the Club and also builds their leadership and self-advocacy skill set.
Our partners at VOX ATL, an Atlanta-based youth development nonprofit organization that empowers teens to create content and art and supports uncensored youth self expression, were asked to share stories of high-quality youth development. They’ve put together a series of these stories featuring afterschool providers AND a vitally important group- youth themselves. VOX ATL knows that “youth voice is a critical element of quality — and that when done effectively, youth voices help organizations address equity, and racial equity in particular.”
As part of that project, they put together this video featuring teens. The teens give keen insight into what they love about their program, and specifically the kinds of practices that make them feel like they belong and like their voice is supported. Consider watching this short video in your next staff meeting, then having a discussion about what ways you support youth voice and what else you could do. Also consider asking your youth what they love (and don’t) about your programs, and then act on what you hear.
Club staff can access training to support greater youth voice and high-quality staff practice. These include:
- The Youth Voice Method training, available as an in-person facilitated session or in a self-guided format on Spillett Leadership University.
- PQA Basics, available as a live virtual session or in a self-guided format on Spillett Leadership University.
- CQI Training Series, descriptions and dates available at CQIToolkit.org.