Children's Voice July/August 2007

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Other Voices

The Five Cs Are Key for Positive Youth Development

By Donald T. Floyd Jr.

Researchers say young people are resources to be developed. This is the underlying theme of the Positive Youth Development (PYD) theory. A recent 4-H study on Positive Youth Development, led by Tufts University's Richard Lerner, is the first longitudinal investigation of a diverse sample of fifth graders and their parents that tests ideas linking PYD, youth contribution, and participation in community youth development programs. The study provides evidence-based support for the value of quality youth development organizations in promoting positive characteristics for success in youth.

The study validates the 100-year impact of 4-H PYD programs on the youth who have participated in 4-H. It shows that by encouraging the five Cs of PYD--competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring--every youth development program can help young people become contributing citizens to their communities, their country, and their world. The five components focus on the positive aspects of developing a young person. By doing so, young people feel valued and realize they have the potential to do exceptional things.

Since it was founded in 1902, 4-H has provided critical citizenship, leadership, and life skills to more than 60 million American youth. Through innovative programs, 4-H members have become community leaders and experienced the essential elements that shape them into contributing young people and adults. These elements are mastery, independence, belonging, and generosity. They are the cornerstones of all 4-H programs, and they correlate directly with the five Cs of PYD.

Competence (mastery) is an important element of PYD, because youth learn they are capable individuals, able to contribute to their environment, and they are valued resources. By participating in new experiences, young people can actively pursue their interests and potential future career choices.

Encouraging confidence (independence) in a young person gives them the assurance to make good decisions and the ability to influence their surroundings. Confidence enables young people to make needed changes to improve their circumstances and the circumstances of those around them. Connection (belonging) might be the single most powerful element youth development programs can contribute to the development of a young person. All young people need to know that others care about them. A safe environment, where young people are encouraged to give their input and try new things, creates opportunities for them to interact with one another. Youth are then exposed to diverse people and experiences.

Character and caring (generosity) gives purpose and meaning to the lives of youth. By participating in community service and citizenship activities, youth learn to connect with their communities and the importance of giving back to others. Seeing their role in the larger context of society gives young people a basis for understanding their responsibility to give back to the communities in which they belong.

The 4-H study of PYD shows the essential elements of 4-H effectively capture the five Cs in a way that serves as a model program for fostering positive youth development. The study also found that the greater the number of different types of structured afterschool activities youth engage in, the better their positive youth development. This tells us more is better!

Fortunately, more young people than ever are participating in afterschool activities--fewer than 10% do not participate in any afterschool activity, according to the 4-H study. These structured activities, especially those that encourage the five Cs of PYD, will increase civic participation in today's youth and when they become adults.

All youth development organizations can incorporate the five Cs in their programming. We need to work together to encourage them to take the necessary steps to create opportunities, ensuring that programs are available to all young people and that these young people are important contributors to their own development.

As young people mature through various programs that encourage competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring, they become invaluable resources to their communities. Young people learn that contributing to society is a responsibility. By becoming contributing citizens, they ultimately make our world a better place to live. We all need to work together to make this possible.

Donald T. Floyd Jr. is President and CEO of the National 4-H Council, the private sector, nonprofit partner of 4-H, one of America's largest and most diverse youth organizations.

"Other Voices" provides leaders and experts from national organizations that share CWLA's commitment to the well-being of children, youth, and families a forum to share their views and ideas on crosscutting issues.


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