by Vanessa Maltin
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Mustafaa Madyun works for kids, but he does it through working with adults. He works with coaches, teachers, community leaders and anyone else who interacts with children to help them better understand the youth of tomorrow and lead them to develop into productive members of society.
Beginning in the fall of 1999, the National Training Institute for Community Youth Work began offering the Advancing Youth Development courses to D.C. youth workers called DC BEST (Build Exemplary Systems for Training), based on a curriculum developed by the Academy for Educational Development.
Different from most mentorship programs that support childhood growth, DC BEST works to educate adults on how to better interact with youth in the workplace — by teaching adults to better identify what a child needs to advance his or her own development.
Since 1999, nearly 400 youth workers, representing over 90 DC youth-serving organizations, have participated in the course.
“Youth development is the process by which all young people seek ways to meet their basic physical and social needs, and build the competencies necessary to succeed in adolescence and adulthood,” said Madyun, DC BEST Project Director.
“The goal is not to fix youth, but to develop them,” Madyun said. “We need to challenge them to achieve their highest potential.”
Madyun, who initially participated in the course in February 2000 and then became a facilitator said he was amazed with the program because it was the first time a training course was designed to enhance what he does.
“We teach youth workers how to help at-risk youth become successful,” Madyun said. “But what is unique is that we help them realize that each child needs something different to succeed — we help them give youth the tools for development.”
Madyun said that leaders in the program see three key objectives to being successful. By combining prevention, achievement and development, workers can help youth find their identities and give them the ability to achieve individual goals.
“We hope that adults in the workplace can help youth stay away from drugs, avoid teen pregnancy, and steer clear of violence and criminal activities,” Madyun said. “We also encourage spiritual activities so that youth can realize how they are connected to the universe as well as their communities.”
DC BEST is one of several programs using youth development as a platform. Other programs are emerging in San Diego, Boston, New York, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago and New Haven.
The 30-hour, seven session class is offered in the winter, spring and fall, but because of recent demands for spots, leaders say they are looking to offer several more sessions, not only to individuals but entire agencies such as the DC Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Health and any other youth serving agencies.
DC BEST is funded by the Children’s Youth Investment Trust Corporation a non-profit organization in the nation’s capitol that President and CEO Greg Roberts says works to link public and private resources to address the long term needs of children, youth and families in the District of Columbia.
Roberts said that a majority of their grantees provide after school programs in areas ranging from the arts to tutoring, all aiding students he says. DC BEST is unique because it educates adults to later assist students.
“DC BEST embodies the concepts on which the Trust was founded, moving forward a philosophy of youth development outcomes,” said Roberts. “As we support community based organizations and their staff, we are doing so in a way the gives their work clear definition and results in documental progress in the positive development of young people.”
Roberts also said that over 50 percent of the corporation’s grantees have voluntarily participated in the program to aid them in their daily work with youth.