Today’s youth represent a significant portion our population. Listening to and understanding the aspirations and expectations of youth is of great importance to professionals, policymakers and others working with youth. By listening and hearing the voices of youth, insights are gained which lead to greater acceptance and understanding of today’s youth culture.
The Youth Academy Café, a program of the University of Northern Iowa Institute for Youth Leaders and planned, organized and implemented by doctoral students in the Allied Health, Recreation and Community Services,Ed. D intensive area is aimed to foster an interactive dialogue among and between young people and community members. The Youth Academy Café draws its inspiration from a process-oriented methodology known as The World Café. This process is a straight forward, flexible format for promoting dialogue and conversation. The Youth Academy Café format involves discovering common interests, sharing knowledge, imagining the future, and cooperating to survive and thrive (The World Café, 2015). This methodology offers a way for cross pollination of ideas and relationship building among the participants.
Several Youth Academy Cafés have been implemented and are planned for the future. These events have focused on bringing together leaders from junior high and high schools, college and university students, youth serving agencies, in the Cedar Valley to participate in a discussion on topics that affect youth in this area. The events have been held in The World Café format and will include conversation and emerging themes on issues affecting youth and how the community is addressing them.
Thus far, three Youth Academy Cafés have been planned and implemented with the forth scheduled for April of this year. The initial Youth Academy Café involved UNI students and was focused on pilot testing, the logistics and methods of conducting such an event. The next café drew together students from East and West High Schools in Waterloo. The third event captured the voices of UNI international students. The next event will seek to hear the voices of junior high students in Cedar Falls. The program meets several elements of the University tripartite mission of teaching, research and service. It is an excellent example of community engagement and outreach and also provides opportunities for doctoral students to conduct research and submit their findings for publication. As an experiential based teaching tool, students are gaining applied knowledge for implementing community based learning activities. Check out the upcoming Youth Academy Cafe event
Program Objectives and Design
Capturing youth voices regarding six identified open ended discussion questions.
To select the topics for YAC discussion: IYL recruits young people from other departments of the university. The institute collaborates in the process of selecting closely with other youth in crafting the discussion topics such that it better addresses the needs of the participants and would be able to explore and propel conversation, imagination, and reflections of Youths.
Socialization - networking among community members, students and faculty is the focus to help youths thrive.
Crafting practical, action and scholarly research. Qualitative research is the outcome of the Youth Academy Cafe Events. We collaborate with other graduate/undergraduate students and faculty members to capture Youth Voices (see research publications).