The YMCA is currently accepting applications for the Youth First director position in their organization. Youth First was started with seed money through the Washington County Community Foundation in 2007 and is a program focused on building the 40 Developmental Assets amongst the youth and families of the Washington County community. Youth First merged with the YMCA in January of 2012 and continues to operate as a program of the Y.
When the Community Foundation initially started the effort it began as the youth development movement and focused its work on introducing the 40 Developmental Assets framework, how the assets are vital to the development of healthy, productive, successful youth and measuring the level of assets present in our young people. In 2006, the Washington County Community Foundation covered the cost of administering the Attitudes and Behaviors Survey to all youth in Washington County grades 6th -12th. The results of the survey were shocking. The survey showed Washington County youth on average have 18.3 of the assets, less than half of the 40. Based on the average level of assets over half of our youth are considered at-risk. Armed with this information the Community Foundation set forth to start the youth development movement and begin the work of building assets in Washington County.
Beth Armstrong began as the director of the program in February of 2007. Armstrong said, “When I started we didn’t really know what the youth development movement would look like. We knew what our goal was but we didn’t have a checklist of x,y,z for how to make it happen.” When Armstrong started she said she spent her first year introducing the concept of the 40 Developmental Assets to the community, bringing awareness to the issue and identifying asset building resources that were already in place. “As we explored what kind of programming and resources we wanted to introduce we were very intentional to not reinvent the wheel. Myself and the advisory council worked together to identify needs that were not being met and worked to leverage resources to fill the gaps.”
Since it’s beginning in 2007, the youth development movement has evolved into Youth First of Washington County. Youth First identifies itself as serving three primary audiences: (1)Youth (2) Adults & Families (3) Professionals serving Youth and Families. For each audience Youth First has worked to build programming and resources to serve the needs of each core group.
When it came to the needs of youth, programming for middle school and high school age youth was needed. In response Youth First now offers the following programs directed at this age group: Afternoons ROCK, EntrepreneurShip Investigation, Keep Encouraging Youth to Succeed (KEYS) and the High School Youth Summit.
Support services for parents were also identified as a need. As a result, Youth First introduced Family Works, 24/7 Dads, Inside Out Dads and Basic Computer Skills training. Youth First also plans to introduce a new parenting resource, Guiding Good Choices, this year.
One of the strengths Youth First identified in the community was a wealth of programming and resources already available to serve the needs of youth and families. Where they identified a gap is professionals serving youth and families didn’t have an avenue to connect and collaborate. Through a partnership with Indiana Youth Institute, Youth First now serves as the host agency of a quarterly networking luncheon, Youth First Cafés, to bring professionals together to network as well as highlight a program to serve the needs of the clients served by professionals.
Along with direct programming Youth First also serves to act a resource “on all things youth development” in Washington County. Their website, offers a calendar of events for youth and family friendly programming. Youth First also provides educational resources and practical tools for how to build the asset of the week.
Armstrong said, “Serving as the director of Youth First has been an absolute joy for me. I heard someone say once, I don’t have a job, I have a joy and nothing could more closely reflect my experience with the Community Foundation, Youth First and the Y.” Deciding to leave was not an easy decision for Armstrong but with the growing needs of her own family and missing a career in agriculture she has chosen to pursue a career selling crop insurance for Silveus Crop Insurance Agency. Armstrong will continue to be around through August with the intention of training the new Youth First Director and insuring a smooth transition.
Youth First Director Job Description (pdf)