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Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain: Helping Underperforming Students Become Lifelong Learners

Jensen and Snider tackle a most significant educational issue — student drop-out rates — by describing the turnaround tools “to create a mind-set in your students that life is not a race. It’s all about putting pieces in place that empower you to become your best self . . .

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10 Lessons from New York City Schools: What Really Works to Improve Education

For those in the service of youth, hope springs eternal at summer’s end. Back-to-school season triggers memorable sensory registers: the smell of sharpened pencils, the smooth cover of the composition book with its sea of untouched pages, the sounds of gathering youth returning to their primary occupation of student. For educators, the senses seem heightened, eagerly seeking fresh approaches to make the upcoming year the most engaging, effective, and productive year of their professional lives . . .

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Essential Resources and Programs for Achieving Higher Education

The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth published “College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness: A Toolkit for Educators and Service Providers.” This comprehensive guide by Christina Dukes:

  • Gives advice to professionals working with homeless youth for every step of the process from selecting a school to applying for admissions, financial aid and private scholarships, and succeeding once enrolled.
  • Addresses overcoming common barriers, such as completing financial aid forms for young people who no longer have relationships with their parents.
  • Lists federal programs that can help disadvantaged student enter, pay for and graduate from post-secondary programs, including Upward Bound, GEAR UP and Student Supportive Services Programs, as well as federal protections given to students under the McKinney-Vento Act.
  • Contains a tip sheet for college students experiencing homelessness.
  • NAEHCY also has a helpline for homeless youth who want to attend college — which also advises adults working with these youth — as well as numerous other online resources for financial aid and other issues for homeless youth: naehcy.org/educational-resources/higher-ed

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Increasing Access to Higher Education

Mynecia Taylor, 18, studies for the ACT at her apartment on January 6, in St. Louis, Miss. Taylor opted out of foster care at the age of 18, losing some benefits she would have received until age 21. She would like to opt back in to get benefits available to college students, and legislation has been proposed to allow that. (Photo by Lauri Skrivan/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/MCT) 

This summer, 26 foster youth going into 9th and 10th grade will spend four weeks living in dormitories at George Washington University as part of a year-long effort to expose them to — and prepare them for — college life. The students will take a two-credit college-level film reporting class and receive academic enrichment and remediation programs, said Teresa Zutter, director of First Star Greater Washington Academy, one of four Foster Youth Academies run by the national nonprofit First Star. Students will also participate in field trips, cultural events, a speakers’ forum and other activities designed to give them the enrichment and encouragement they need to ultimately be accepted into and graduate from two- and four-year college programs.

Young people who have experienced homelessness, have been in the foster care system, or have experienced other significant disruptions in their home or school lives may face significant barriers to getting into, and succeeding in, post-secondary education. A 2005 study by Casey Family Programs found that only 2 percent of young people who had been in foster care completed a bachelor’s degree. While there have been no studies of degree rates among young people who’ve experienced homelessness, a 2008 study by the Pell Institute found that only 12 percent of low-income young adults obtain bachelor’s degrees.  

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Agencies Share Lessons in Quest to Build Better Programs

Partnerships. Data-sharing. Professional development.

These are among the top priorities for program providers within the evolving field of expanded learning.

Implementing a particular practice isn’t an end but an ongoing process, youth-development experts say.

“We talk about the idea of continuous improvement processes,” said Christina A. Russell, a researcher at the Washington, D.C.-based Policy Studies Associates, Inc. who specializes in youth development.

“It’s that ongoing look at the program from either the agency running the program or another intermediary organization to continually reflect on and think about whether the quality elements that they’re looking for are present.”

With assistance from CBASS, or the Collaborative for Building After School Systems, Youth Today sought out examples of best practices in the area of partnerships, data-sharing and professional development, as well as a few lessons learned.

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Sports Safety: A Second Opinion

Dr. Steve Rowson, of Virginia Tech’s Center for Injury Biomechanics, recently released a report evaluating injuries in youth football. “There are more players at the youth level [so] this is an important subset to study and better understand how you might reduce concussion incidents in the future,” he said.

Whereas Dr. Michael Collins’ study (see main story) found that most concussion incidents occurred during games, Rowson’s study found greater rates of high-magnitude head impacts during practices. By changing drills and other procedures, Rowson believes youth football programs can reduce the rates of high impact head collisions among players — which is something any youth sports or rec program can learn from.

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What All Youth Sports Program Managers Should Know

The Ebinport youth football team runs onto the field at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., prior to the preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants on Aug. 13, 2011. (Photo by Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCT)

Chris Prawdzik, president of Chicago’s North Shore Youth Football Club, knows the ins and outs of youth football programming quite well. Youth Today recently asked the seven-year veteran of youth football management about key practices all directors and operators should to ensure a successful — and safe — experience for the nation’s youngest athletes.
Concussion Policies
“Set a policy, make sure everyone is aware of it, and you have everybody on board,” Prawdzik said.

Oftentimes, he explained, young athletes may want to continue playing after potential head injuries, but Prawdzik implores coaches to keep children out of action if they are displaying any concussion symptoms. “They need to sit out, and they need to be examined by a physician,” he said.

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Detector Protector: High School Athlete Dedicates Off-Field Time to Concussion Sensor Device Development

Braeden Benedict poses for a portrait at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif., on Feb. 28, 2012. Benedict won a national science award for a device (below) that can be fitted into youth football and lacrosse helmets to help identify potential concussions. He has applied for a patent. (Photos by Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

In the Southern California coastal community of Palos Verdes, one high school student is developing devices that could help thousands of young people avoid serious sports-related brain injuries.

Since 2012, 16-year-old Braeden Benedict, a rising junior at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, has developed two devices that are capable of detecting concussions in athletes.

A football player himself, Benedict has seen several friends and teammates experience concussions and accompanying symptoms. One friend suffered a concussion during a football game that went undiagnosed for weeks. In his video for the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, Benedict stated it was not until the friend complained of an inability to focus and was failing all of his classes that the concussion was diagnosed. Benedict knew that better sideline evaluation tools were needed to detect serious brain injuries. 

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Risk Management Planning: A Basic Checklist for Youth Protection

When taking a critical look at risk categories, the Nonprofit Risk Management Center provides the following advice:

Personnel and participants are a nonprofit’s most “precious assets” and injuries they sustain may never be repaired. Organizations should look at their “people assets” including staff, volunteers, clients, board members and donors. Recognizing that each person is unique and brings his or her own set of experiences and skills, the organization should identify all categories of people that it comes into contact with and create a list of the risks each group of people face. 

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Opening School Facilities to Private Youth Programs — A Legal Analysis

In his overview analysis, Professor Tom Baker wrote that “public schools in most states are subject to liability in some situations that could arise out of the recreational use of school facilities.” 

Should public schools open their spaces for public use after school hours? Can outside youth-serving programs use these facilities for programs and recreational activities? What risks do schools face?

In 2008, the National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity sought to answer some of these questions through a survey it commissioned by a well-known insurance and tort law scholar, Professor Tom Baker of the University of Pennsylvania. NPLAN and Baker created the resulting 50-state survey to help prevent childhood obesity through the opening of public school buildings for recreational uses after hours.  

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