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Teen Youth Work with Saint Paul Public Library: Positive Youth Development

This guide is meant to guide staff, mentors, and all those involve with teen programming through Saint Paul Public Library.

Positive Youth Development

As mentioned in our introduction, Positive Youth Development is a strategy engaged at Createch. There are five key principles on which Positive Youth Development is founded, and we strive to utilize these guidelines in all of our member and community interactions.

  1. Focus on youth's strengths and the positive outcomes to come when those strengths are honed while working to develop competencies, values, and connections needed for life and work.
  2. Make a point to value the youth's voice and engagement in decision making processes.
  3. Engage strategies to involve all youth. There is no hierarchy of "youth who need attention." Whether "opportunity" youth or "gifted," successful communities are committed to the development of all their youth, while being mindful of nuances in each teen.
  4. Positive community involvement and collaboration. Encourage community involvement in the development of youth for a multi-faceted support system.
  5. Long-term commitment is integral to building trust, lasting relationships, and development in youth.

Development Outcomes

A huge belief held in Createch, and supported by the research done by Karen Pittman, is to shift the paradigm away from "preventing and 'fixing' behavior deficits to[ward] building and nurturing 'all beliefs, behaviors, knowledge, attributes, and skills that result in a healthy and productive adolescence and adulthood.'"²

Pittman has also developed a model for understanding Positive Youth Development Outcomes, known as the 6 C's*

  • Confidence: a sense of self-worth and mastery; having a sense of self-efficacy
  • Character: taking responsibility; a sense of independence and individuality; connection to principles and values
  • Connection: a sense of safety, structure, and belonging; bonding with people and social institutions
  • Competence: the ability to act effectively  in school, social situations, and at work
  • Contribution: active participation and leadership in a variety of settings; making a difference.
  • Caring: a sense of sympathy and empathy for others

*Originally the 5 C's, "caring" was added later

Youth Engagement

Youth Engagement is the result when young adults become actively involved in responsible and challenging actions to create community action and positive social change. In order for this to happen, youth must be involved in the planning and decision making process. Adult-youth partnerships is a place where Positive Youth Development often thrives. These partnerships are structured so that equal say is given to both parties, allowing both to contribute, teach, and learn from each other.

Remember: Youth engagement is not just talking with teens; it is involving teens in the decision making process that will affect their futures.

Involving youth is imperative because it is also a source for classical conditioning. If we allow youth to make decisions for their own futures, they will develop these skills and employ them in the future. By dissuading youth from passivity we are building a lively community, proactive leaders, and an active democracy for the future.

There are a plethora of benefits for Youth Engagement, both at the individual and group level. These include:

  • Young people: skill-building, confidence, knowledge, and connectedness
  • Adults: gain skills and understanding of youth value and community engagement
  • Organizations: community recognition, program improvement, and increase funding opportunities
  • Communities: an improved quality of life and authentically embracing diversity


1. Positive Youth Development Resource Manual. (n.d.). Retrieved August 14, 2015. ACT for Youth.

2. Pittman, K. (1999). Youth Today: The Power of Engagement. Forum for Youth Investment.