Why College?

Donald T. Floyd Jr.
President/ CEO
National 4-H Council
Chevy Chase, MD

I am writing in response to the article, “College-Linked Training Spreads, But Does It Improve Youth Work?” (May).

National 4-H Council appreciates your coverage of our newly commissioned report, “Educational Youth Development Professionals: Current Realities, Future Potential.” The writer makes a valid point: Currently, university courses available to youth development professionals often are not specific to the work of youth development professionals, and these courses do focus more on program management than youth education.

However, the purpose of the report is not to criticize educational opportunities available to youth development professionals, but to lay the groundwork for a consistent, integrated approach to educating youth development professionals so that the field can provide quality development experiences for young people.

In 4-H’s “The National Conversation on Youth Development in the 21st Century: Final Report,” 50,000 youth and adults from more than 600 organizations collaborated to shape a dynamic youth agenda for the future. This agenda calls for the attraction and retention of exceptional people to youth development by increasing compensation and providing more professional development opportunities.

Years of experience working with youth certainly are valuable and are to be celebrated. But that experience combined with youth development education makes for stronger youth development professionals and better youth development programs.

Kathryn Stolpman
Supervisor of Children’s Residential Services
St. Cloud Children’s Home
St. Cloud, MN

You did a great job of capturing some of the issues between education versus experience. I believe we are going to be hearing a lot more about this issue. I believe it is a money issue.

Sonya Rice
Educational/Vocational Coordinator
Youth Opportunity Program
Buffalo, NY

I have worked with youth for many years while I pursued my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. One cannot choose a degree over experience, or vice versa. However, there is no excuse for a youth worker to remain undereducated, considering the benefits of formal education and the availability of academic courses. If adults are not willing to challenge their own academic ability and explore avenues for change, how can they encourage the youths to move forward?

In the state of New York, teachers are required to obtain master’s degrees before they can be permanently hired. Youth-serving programs should adhere to the same level of standards.

Without the standards being raised, the field of youth work will not attract and retain people with vision. All professions evolve as the workers become better educated. That’s how grass-roots efforts become viable service commodities.


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