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Community Programs to Promote Youth Development
port for the importance of belonging for a wide variety of positive outcomes (Fisher et al., 1998; Jackson and Davis, 2000).
How is inclusiveness across cultural groups achieved? Simply bringing different groups into contact with each other does not necessarily lead to mutual understanding and respect; the conditions of contact are critical (Merry, 2000; National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000b). Experimental studies introducing multiethnic cooperative learning groups have demonstrated that such experiences increase cross-ethnic group friendships and, in turn, increase a sense of belonging in the school and the classroom (Slavin, 1995). The following elements were identified by a recent gathering of scholars as critical to cultivating positive intergroup relationships through inclusiveness (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000b:15):
Interactions between different groups must be on a level of equal status;
Activities must be cooperative rather than competitive, involving pursuit of a shared goal;
There must be individualized contact between members of groups;
Institutions and authority figures must support the goal of intergroup understanding; “institutional silence,” an atmosphere in which race is never mentioned, can lead to unspoken perceptions of discrimination and intergroup tensions; group differences must be acknowledged; and
Adults have an important roles, as “role models, pathfinders, arbitrators, peacemakers, interpreters, mentors, promoters of civic ethics, and administrators.”
As with all other features, issues of person-environment fit are important here (see Appendix B for more details). Adolescents have different attitudes, past experiences, and levels of readiness. For example, research suggests that issues of ethnic identity become more salient with age (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2000b), and thus younger adolescents may have different concerns from older ones. In addition, stage theories of ethnic identity formation suggest that some youth from nonmajority cultures may need intense periods of immersion in their own culture as a step toward being able to function in a multicultural environment (Phinney, 1990). Similar issues can be important for male and female youth and for youth with different sexual orientations.