There are programs that have explored including young people as evaluators of their programs. The Department of Children, Youth and Their Families in the City of San Francisco launched a comprehensive effort to promote leadership development among San Francisco youth. The city’s efforts included a youth-led evaluation program that trains 12– 15 youth in research, planning, and evaluation. This component of the city’s work was designed both to create new leadership among young people and to improve the effectiveness of the organizations being funded, from a youth perspective (Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, 2001).
At the heart of many community programs for youth are opportunities for skill building. Programs can use a wide variety of activities, such as community service, adventure and outdoor activities, art, drama, music, religious instruction, sports, cultural awareness, academic improvement, and career preparation, to support positive youth development and to meet the program-specific objectives. The exact content or focus (e.g., sports, music, community service) may be designed to attract adolescents to the program, while the curriculum may focus more on developmental skills (e.g., cooperation, creativity, communication). Save the Children programs, for example, include activities to promote cognitive ability and intellectual growth, as well as social and emotional growth, through a range of activities, including tutoring, computer training, recreation activities, team-building programs, and youth leadership activities (Terao et al., 2000).
Programs focusing on a specific activity can support skill building in a number of different areas. An arts program, for example, may involve youth in researching their cultural history and painting community murals to reflect what they learn. A sports program may focus not only on skills development, but also on teamwork and problem solving (McLaughlin, 2000). Library-based programs encouraging teens to read can provide a variety of educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities that help the participants improve academic performance, develop social skills, learn new hobbies, and build self-esteem. Through reading opportunities, these programs focus on critical thinking, communication skills, social skills, and creativity (American Library Association, 2000).
Examples of skills that are incorporated into programs are plentiful. Volunteers of Campfire Boys and Girls provide youth with assistance,