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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
should vary across cultural groups, depending on the outcomes different groups see as most important. For individuals who are or who will be participants in multiple cultures—as is increasingly the case across America—skill training should involve learning how to function in several different cultural systems (LaFromboise et al., 1993; Phelan and Davidson, 1993). Involvement in activities with embedded curricula leads to gains in both social and cultural capital (Clark, 1988; McLaughlin, 2000).
Research on how curricula function in community programs is found in diffuse literatures, employs diverse paradigms, and is generally underdeveloped. Some studies show that sports programs develop athletic skills and music programs develop music skills. More important is newer research showing that programs that teach basic life skills, such as coping, assertiveness, and problem solving, predict improved emotional well-being, better school performance, and reduced risk behaviors (Compas, 1993; LaFromboise and Howard-Pitney, 1994). More research is needed on how these opportunities to learn basic life skills can be effectively woven into activities of community programs.
On a more positive note, studies of schools and nonschool community-based programs show consistent evidence of the importance of learning new cognitive and life skills (Coleman et al., 1966; Clark, 1983, 1988; Comer, 1980, 1988; Murnane and Levy, 1996, see also Chapter 2 for evidence of the importance of good academic outcomes). McLaughlin (2000) concluded that having an intentional learning environment was one of the critical characteristics of the successful community-based programs she and her colleagues studied. Similarly, Merry (2000), in her Chapin Hall report, concluded that educational supports and career exploration programs are characteristics of community-based programs with positive outcomes for their participants. A similar conclusion was reached 10 years ago by Dryfoos (1990) and more recently by the Carnegie Corporation in its report A Matter of Time. Schinke and his colleagues provided additional evidence of the positive impact of well-designed educational enhancement programs in Boys and Girls Clubs in a public housing development on both school outcomes and reductions in drug-related activities (Schinke et al., 1993). The reports by Dryfoos and Merry also stressed the positive linkage between programs designed to teach adolescents peer-pressure resistance skills, such as those taught in the Girls, Inc. Will Power Program. We discuss some of these programs in more detail in Chapter 5.
Abundant research now exists for educational settings on how to