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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
workforce has led to greater demands for activities that, among other things, provide youth with supervision during nonschool hours. Discussion of these programs often reveals widely varying views about the role of women (or, in this case, mothers) in the workforce and the extent to which their changing roles underlie community programs for young people.
Any attempt to understand the role of community programs in the lives and development of young people necessarily incorporates some basic judgments about the attributes we hope that young people develop (see Chapter 3). The committee acknowledges up front that cataloguing the personal characteristics that young people need to possess invariably includes subjective judgment. Other groups might come up with a different set of desirable attributes. But we also decided that it is important for community programs to have explicit goals regarding what assets or characteristics they would like to promote. Such goals are important because they should be used to design and then evaluate the program activities. Having explicit goals makes both evaluation and accountability much easier. The committee expanded its charge to include a scientific assessment of what such goals might be.
This report does not take on directly the question of the appropriate relationship between schools and community programs. Rather, as noted earlier, we concentrate on discussing what young people need for healthy growth and development, recognizing that, in some communities, families, schools, and existing community organizations may well provide most, if not all of the structures, conditions, and experiences necessary to meet the needs of young people—making additional government-funded community programs relatively marginal. In other areas, the need for community programs may be acute because existing institutions, including the schools, are not able to meet the needs of all adolescents. What this logic suggests is that communities as a whole should regularly review what is available for their young people and then make judgments about which institutions—schools, community programs, and others—can and should fill the gaps. Invariably, communities will answer this challenge differently and come to varying views about the precise responsibilities of home, school, and community programs.
Finally, we do not pretend that this report offers the definitive or final blueprint for positive youth development. Young people are influenced by a large array of factors, ranging from their family to the complicated world of the Internet and the forces of popular culture. In truth, all such forces can and should be enlisted to bolster the development of