School of Social Work launches program for youth workers

The program aims to help improve teaching skills for individuals who work with young people.

Chuying Xie

The Youth Work Learning Lab in the School of Social Work launched courses this month to help people who work with youths improve their teaching skills and develop better relationships with students.

Starting earlier in October, youth workers — individuals who teach children outside school settings — will gather twice each month for a Youth Work in Community workshop to self-evaluate their teaching and discuss topics including developing a sense of identity and promoting relationships with youth. The course will last for one year.

Youth workers are not required to have teaching certification, so the program aims to help provide workers with these teaching skills, said Director of the Youth Work Learning Lab Deborah Moore.

Moore and others in the School of Social Work’s Youth Studies program co-designed the series of eight workshops dedicated to youth workers who work in classrooms outside traditional school settings such as nonprofits.

A main part of the program is teaching youth workers to develop interrelationship skills with students.

“Relationship is primary in our way of thinking how people learn,” Moore said, explaining her vision in providing the workshops. “We get to the learning through establishing that kind of trust and connection and respect, and then we go to different kinds of learning.”

Youth workers step back from the role of the person in charge and try to become facilitators of the classes by giving students freedom to decide how they want to learn, Moore said. The program aims to encourage open discussion between youth workers.

“We tend to design learning in ways that are more in small groups and collaborative,” Moore said.

Fardousa Jama, co-founder of the Somali Community Barwaaqo Organization, participated in the workshops when the program was first launched as a pilot program last year. She said her most important takeaway from the course was learning to evaluate how she works and foster a sense of belonging within her students.

“One of the things I walked away with … is the evaluation piece — how essential it is to assess and analyze what we were doing,” Jama said.

Ross VeLure Roholt, director of the Youth Development Leadership Program, said one of the goals of youth workers is to work with young people instead of creating a program for them. Part of this is helping young people identify their strengths and learn about themselves and what they want to do in the future.

“An additional focus we wanted to invite [into the workshop series] is to bring together people who have a wide variety of experiences to work with young people to really think through and reimagine how might we together start to transform the field in Minnesota,” he said.