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May 2023Vol. 24, No. 4Students Offer Lessons on Enhancing Engagement in Youth Programs

A brief by Child Trends highlights four strategies to engage youth in youth-serving programs more effectively. For these programs to achieve their desired outcomes, youth engagement is essential. The brief Students Offer Lessons on Enhancing Engagement in Youth Programs incorporates feedback from focus groups of high school students who participated in a larger evaluation of a social-emotional program. The goal was to evaluate their experiences in the program to identify effective strategies for enhancing youth engagement in programs.

The brief provides the following tips on how to enhance youth engagement in programs:

  • Tailor content to youth to make programming more useful and relevant. Youth respondents are more engaged in programming when the content is relevant, informative, and beneficial to them.
  • Create comfortable surroundings for youth during program sessions. This can include providing autonomy in choosing where to sit or whom to work with and ensuring that youth have the space and time to connect—especially before personal or sensitive discussions.
  • Create an inclusive and judgment-free environment. Creating a judgment-free and inclusive environment increases youth comfort, participation, and connection with program facilitators. Setting this standard at the beginning of the program can promote engagement and build relationships with youth.
  • Diversify program activities to engage youth who learn differently. Youth respondents strongly preferred interactive activities like group work and role-playing over lecture-style delivery.

Overall, the brief emphasizes the importance of creating programs that are responsive to the needs and interests of young people. Child Trends suggests that programs can better engage youth and support their growth and development by prioritizing tailored content, hands-on learning, and youth voice. The brief also includes resources with additional information for promoting youth engagement.