PYD can be integrated into any youth development program. First and foremost, all youth-serving organizations should work toward assuring that young people have the chance to engage in positive relationships and interactions that can help them develop into healthy and productive adults. PYD strategies also include providing youth with access to experiences that help them learn healthy and valued behaviors, expectations, and principles. The following model was developed by Jacquelynne Eccles (2011) and describes the types of opportunities that should be provided to young people and how these opportunities help young people develop into happy, healthy, and secure young adults.
A comprehensive review of the research literature focused on community programs for youth,1 identified key environmental factors and experiences that have been found to promote PYD. These factors and experiences are recommended by experts to be integrated into PYD programs. They include:
Physical and Psychological Safety
A program should provide ground rules that are developed, agreed upon, and posted by the youth participants. Adequately trained staff members who understand and respect youth are essential to providing a safe space for a positive program experience. A program should also include youth and adults who are trained in team building and can understand and recognize symptoms of cliques and find alternative means for using group and team-building exercises.
A program should provide appropriate youth-to-adult ratios for supervision, a system for ensuring that youth are welcomed when they arrive, and a balance for different learning styles in programmatic activities.
Programs should create opportunities where youth share their interests and work collaboratively with their peers. Staff should be trained in handling conflict, recognizing symptoms of withdrawal, and understanding how to engage youth without singling them out.
Opportunities to Belong
A program should provide opportunities for youth to be engaged in small group activities based on interest. Structured team building should also be provided to ensure that all youth have a chance to get acquainted. For the youth to feel involved, opportunities for sharing need to be incorporated into each activity
Positive Social Norms
Programs should engage youth and program staff in creating a respectful environment that involves a respect for diversity and culture in activities.
Opportunities to Make a Difference
A program should engage youth in exploring career and workforce opportunities, provide occasions for goal setting, and create opportunities for youth to make a difference in service learning or peer support.
Opportunities for Skill Development
Programs should provide opportunities for youth to master and apply skills and engage the youth in determining choices toward progression of new levels of learning.
Integration of Family, School, and Community Efforts
A program needs to incorporate ways to engage parents and/or guardians, staff, and youth participants through family activities, newsletters, websites, and program policies. Programs should be aware of when youth are in school or out of school and plan accordingly to support youth and their families in extended programming opportunities. Additionally, programs should be mindful of certain populations such as disconnected youth, that may be more difficult to engage and how best to get them involved in programming.