Logan Symposium explores dynamics, challenges of youth work

Kate Walker, research associate at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, and Laurie Ross, associate director of International Development, Community, and Environment department at Clark, pause before Walker's talk at the Logan Symposium, Oct. 21, at the Boys & Girls Club in Worcester.

Students, youths, academic experts, officials and other community members came together at the Boys & Girls Club in Worcester on Oct. 20 and 21 to explore the dynamics and challenges of youth work, all participating in the Clark University 2011 Seymour N. Logan Symposium, “What is the Value of Youth Work?”

Participants at the two-day interactive symposium learned about dilemmas confronting youth workers and discussed possible solutions. The Worcester area Youth Worker Network was also launched at the event.

In an introduction to the Oct. 21 events, Nancy Budwig, Clark professor of psychology, associate provost and dean of research, related a bit of Clark history connecting the symposium to the work of Clark’s first president G. Stanley Hall, who pioneered the study of adolescence. Hall convened the famous Clark Conference of 1909, where Freud and Jung left their mark in America, Budwig noted. But, she added, few people are as aware of the 1909 Clark Conference on Child Welfare, where Hall and others established a national child welfare organization. Budwig expressed her confidence that the experts and workers gathered for the symposium could overcome some of the obstacles Hall’s organization faced in the early 20th century.

Engaging in rigorous research and building networks remain key, Budwig said, applauding the work of the symposium, convened by Laurie Ross, associate director of International Development, Community, and Environment and assistant professor of Community Development and Planning.

Several notable speakers at the symposium discussed the theory and practice of working with youths.

On Thursday, Shawn Ginwright, associate professor at San Francisco, founder of Leadership Excellence Inc., and a leading national expert on African American youth, offered his insights.

Jessica Rivera, a master’s candidate in Community Development and Planning, participated in a panel presentation titled “Everyday Dilemmas of Youth Work.”

A second panel presentation, “Youth Work as a Profession: Retaining Excellence in the Field,” included local leaders in the youth development community.

* To view a gallery of photos from the Logan Symposium, click here. *

Friday’s lineup included presentations by Kate Walker, research associate at the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development, and Reed Larson, professor in the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and editor-in-chief of  “New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development” (with Clark Associate Professor Lene Jensen).

Reed and Walker are principal investigator and project director, respectively, of TYDE (The Youth Development Experience) research project on programs serving urban and rural high school age youths.

Larson discussed findings on the need for active engagement and making youths the “producers of their own development.” He outlined the role of youth practitioners and demands for positive settings, safety, structure, relationship building and solving a host of potential dilemmas. “They face Catch-22s at every turn,” he said.

Walker delved into the challenges of guiding youths without undermining ownership and motivation. She presented research on such topics as discipline issues, cultivating norms and handling disruptive youths, personalities, personal issues, bureaucracy, resources, staff conflicts and more. She talked about the added complications of youths’ external lives and the effects of family, school and other settings.

A second panel, “Making the Invisible Visible: Strategies to Raise Importance of Youth Work to Funders,” featured Tim Garvin, president and CEO of the United Way of Central Massachusetts, Pamela Kane of the Greater Worcester Community Foundation, and Allen Fletcher of the Fletcher Foundation.

New England Cable News anchor Latoyia Edwards shared some personal experiences in her closing presentation, “The Power of Youth Work.”

The symposium came to a close with a dynamic and moving speech by New England Cable News anchor Latoyia Edwards on “The Power of Youth Work.”

Telling the assembled youth workers, “You saved my life!” Edwards related experiences from her own upbringing in Columbia Point, Dorchester. She animatedly narrated how she was rescued from the school bully by her teacher who “saw something in me that I could not see myself,” offering support that built confidence during what Edwards called her awkward years.

Presenting herself — one of the youngest female, minority anchors in Boston — as the product of “youth work done right,” she profusely thanked and encouraged her audience to stay steadfast in their commitment to those with whom they work. “It’s the day-to-day work you do that really makes a difference. ... You are architects laying the foundation for our society.”

This symposium was made possible through the Seymour N. Logan Faculty Fellowship Fund. Todd Logan '75, a long-time Clark supporter, and his wife Linda Logan ’75, Ph.D. ’87, established the Fellowship Fund in memory of Todd’s father. The fund honors the contributions of professors at Clark, and allows faculty to develop an innovative new course and to organize a symposium on a related topic. The goal is to bring Clark faculty and students together with other prominent scholars for lively intellectual exchanges. The fund is awarded every two years.

Professor Ross is the current recipient of this fellowship.  She developed and offered an innovative course, Youth Work: Everyday Practice and Social Justice, this spring for students pursuing their Master’s Degree in Public Administration.  Value of Youth Work, a collaborative project by experienced youth workers, Clark University students, and Professor Ross, was established after the course.

Ross engages in community based participatory research on youth employment as a gang reduction strategy and youth-led tobacco control. She is the director of the Healthy Options for Prevention and Education (HOPE) Coalition, a youth-adult partnership coalition created to reduce youth violence, substance use and promote adolescent mental health in the City of Worcester. Eighteen local organizations are part of the Coalition.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Seymour N. Logan Fellowship; Clark University’s Department of International Development, Community and Environment; the Jacob Hiatt School for Urban Education, The Frances L. Hiatt School of Psychology and the Mosakowski Institute for Public Enterprise. Community partners are UMass Memorial Health Care and the United Way of Central Massachusetts.

Since its founding in 1887, Clark University in Worcester, Mass., has a history of challenging convention. As an innovative liberal arts college and research university, Clark’s world-class faculty leads a community of creative thinkers and passionate doers and offers a range of expertise. Clark is nationally recognized in the areas of psychology, geography, management, urban education, Holocaust and genocide studies, environmental studies, and international development and social change. Clark’s students, faculty and alumni embody the Clark motto: Challenge convention. Change our world.