Former U professor to be honored by Regents

Max Rust

Showing compassion for troubled youth is more important now than ever. Social workers and counselors fight on a daily basis to keep young people drug-free, crime-free and healthy.
Former University professor Gisela Konopka, who turns 90 years old Friday, has been fighting this battle her entire life.
Considered a legend by those in social services, Konopka will be honored today at a Board of Regents meeting for using compassion to help troubled youth.
More than a quarter-century ago, Konopka identified the eight fundamental requirements for healthy youth development that are still used today, including peer interaction, self-reflection and experimentation with one’s own identity.
Konopka’s work is continued through the Konopka Institute for Best Practices in Adolescent Health; an organization that develops strategies for finding and implementing the best possible programs for dealing with problematic adolescents.
Konopka’s involvement with youth dates back to her own teen years in Berlin, where she played with poor children in the city’s polluted, diseased streets.
In 1933, she joined the Nazi-resistance movement and spent time in a concentration camp. Konopka immigrated to the United States in 1941.
Konopka became a University professor in 1947, where she researched and taught social work until 1978. During her career, she was the first to advocate the needs of jailed youth and championed the value of social-group work and youth development.
Investing in support programs supplements the conventional wisdom that education is a tool to fight poverty, said Robert Blum, director of the University’s division of general pediatrics and adolescent health.
“The needs have increased,” Blum said. “It is because there seems to be fewer resources available. There’s less of a sense as a community that these are our collective responsibilities and there is more and more pressure on the existing programs to reach more young people and to reach young people who have much more complex issues than they did maybe 10 or 20 years ago.”

Max Rust covers the community and agriculture. He can be reached at [email protected]